A-HA: LIFELINES (2002)
1) Lifelines; 2) You Wanted More; 3) Forever Not Yours; 4) There's A Reason For It; 5) Time And Again; 6) Did Anyone Approach You?; 7) Afternoon High; 8)
A whole team of different, but equally respectable producers helped the band out on this one. You'd think the result should have been a mess, and you'd be right: Lifelines is a mess. Surprisingly, though, it is not an exciting mess of breathtaking successes and misguided failures. It is simply a lightweight, vapid, fake-sounding mess. A mess such as would naturally result from the band's expressing a serious desire... to become the new Backstreet Boys. Did they really? I hope they did not. But reason tells me they really did.
These are horrible arrangements. Horrible. The instruments have lost all life, the rhythm section reduced to stereotypical bad movie soundtrack pulsations, the melodies relying on clichés, the lyrics being clichés. Good moments — moments — abound throughout, but they are almost immediately washed away by rivers of syrup, streams of corn, and oceans of cheese. How the heck could this be possible, so soon after the inventive dark maturity of Minor Earth? Who told them to return to the primitive teen aesthetics of 1986, accomodating it to the needs of the new millennium? At least in 1986 they were pretty much teens themselves. But in 2002?..
The only song that qualifies as a relatively solid bit — the only one — is the title track, whose dreamy sequence of 'What do you see, what do you know? One sign, what do I do?..' recreates the treasurable part of the A-Ha spirit in a believable manner. Its «adult contemporary» sound seems to have a wee bit of depth that the rest of the songs does not. But the other hits do not even begin to reach it: 'Forever Not Yours' is American Idol-style pablum, miserably failing to put Morten's singing to good use (the way he bleats out the chorus is just painful), and 'Did Anyone Approach You?' is clearly just a marketing ploy, concocting a «mysterious» atmosphere around a very flat dance melody that is really no fun whatsoever.
'Less Than Pure' is just about the only song on the album that preserves faint traces of aggressive desperation, the same emotion whose puncturing made previous records so enjoyable. But even that song is definitely «less than pure». Everything else is simply too shallow, too happy, too disgustingly clean. Clearly, the experiment did not work. Thumbs down for a record that the band members, if they are really smart, should have long ago disowned, putting the blame on their producers. Amazing, though, considering that one of the producers used to produce for the Pet Shop Boys, and the other two used to produce for Elvis Costello. Was this a subtle revenge on their part, getting even with their protegés' commercial competition in the Eighties?