The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one): Part 7

Part 1 – I’ve Been Losing You / Part 2 – The Blood That Moves the Body / Part 3 – The Sun Never Shone That Day / Part 4 – Sycamore Leaves / Part 5 – Shapes That Go Together / Part 6 – Lie Down in Darkness

ANALOGUE (ALL I WANT) 

“Can I have four pints plea…” Morten Harket started to ask the barman.
“A pint of what?”

Morten surveyed the change in the palm of his hand. “Actually make that two pints and two glasses of beer please.”Image

Morten returned to the table where his wife and two friends, Vicki and Larry Nail, were seated. He handed the pints to Vicki and Larry.
“I haven’t been to a karaoke night in about 10 years,” Vicki giggled. “Do you remember the last time we were at karaoke, Lar? Remember?” She nudged her husband in the ribs.
“No! What happened?” he asked, rubbing his torso.
“Remember after…?” She winked knowingly at him and rolled her tongue appealingly.
“I’ve never been to karaoke with you,” he said, looking blankly.
“Oh. Um, well, that might have been someone else…”

“Eh, so,” Mrs Harket interrupted right on cue, “what do you think you’re going to do tonight?”
“I fancy doing a bit of Whitesnake,” Vicki laughed. “If you know what I mean.” She winked and clucked at Mrs Harket.
“You like Whitesnake?” Morten asked, looking slightly bemused.
“I think she’s being suggestive,” Larry said, diverting his eyes downwards.

Silence.

“Oh, right!” Morten exclaimed. “Right! Snake! Yes…ummm…What about you Larry?”
“I fancy doing the Spice Girls.”
“I bet you do,” Vicki giggled, nudging him in the sensitive rib area again. “One at a time!”
“No, I mean I’d like to do ‘Viva Forever’. It’s a timeless ballad about love and hope.”
“Oh.”

“Now you haven’t put my name forward, right?” Morten asked.
“Uh, no!” Vicki said, nudging her husband in the ribs again.
“Will you stop!?”

“Ok, ladies and gentlemen,” the MC announced from the stage, “it’s time to get our first performer up!”

The 40 or so people in the pub gave a half-hearted reception preferring in the early hours of the night to drink as fast as they could.

“Our first name is … Martin Hairnet!”

Morten sat unmoved.

“Martin Hairnet!”

He turned slowly to the MC. “God, no.”
“Is that you Martin?”
“Uh, not quite…”
“Get up here! Come on folks! Big cheer for Martin Hairnet!”

A handful of the gathered drinkers put their hands together slowly as Martin, um, Morten made his way on to the stage.

“It’s Morten,” he muttered to the MC.
“Sorry, Morten Hairnet!”
“No, Morten Harket.”
“Sorry, Morten Hark…” He looked curiously at Morten.
“Morten Harket?” You’re not Morten Harket!”
“Well I get what you’re saying and you’re right. But at the same time you’re wrong because I am. I’m just not that one.”

The MC nodded slowly before swinging around to face the expanding crowd.
“Do you want to hear Morten Harket sing one of his own songs?”
“No!” Morten shouted, seemingly at the wall.
“Would you like to hear Morten Harket’s beautiful Greek dulcet tones!?”
“They’re Norwegian! Although I’m not Norwegian! They are! Although I’m not him!”
Mrs Harket put her head in her hands as Vicki nudged Larry in the ribs.

“Alright, here’s one for you guys.” The MC whispered to the DJ and a few seconds later “Analogue” by a-ha blasted out over the speakers.

“Come back my darling one,” Morten sung awkwardly, “I’m calling on you.”

“He hasn’t got a note in his head,” Vicki observed.
“At least he has a brain,” muttered Mrs Harket under her breath, thinking that she’d love to throw her glass of beer over Vicki if she weren’t so broke.

“All that I need is the time to show you how I feeeeeeel,” Morten screeched, sending several revellers to the bathroom.

“Ok, ok, stop,” the MC cut across as the music faded out.
“What?” Morten asked.
“You’re awful!”
“It’s karaoke! I’m not Elton John.”
“No, you’re Morten Harket.”
“I’m not, well, I am. But I’m not him.”

“Look,” the MC said, “‘Analogue’ was a terrific modern chart single. I mean a-ha came from nowhere to record their first top 10 hit in 18 years and you’ve just murdered it.”
“It’s still alive.”
“Just about. I mean I’d happily give that song 9/10, that’s how good it is. While the chorus may not be as strong as the verse and bridge, the middle instrumental or powerful closing bars, the song still gets inside your head. The only thing about that performance that gets inside my head is a noise!”
“What is this?” Morten asked. “An audition?”

“You probably don’t even know the original version of the song, ‘Minor Key Sonata’. That was due to be a single before Max Martin was brought in to co-write the new version you’ve just butchered. That song had it’s moments but was just not as catchy. The mid-section was furiously cute but overall it comes up a few notches short at 7/10.”

“I’ll get my coat,” Morten said as he did the walk of shame off to stage to virtual silence.
“Yeah, and don’t come back you butchering monster! Morten Harket, my arse!”

Vicki nudged Larry in the ribs again.

Morten turned the key in his front door where he wasn’t met by his expectant wife as she was already with him. He closed it behind them.

“I guess that’s the a-ha curse in action,” she said with a grimace.

“Yes,” he replied, tightening the hinge on the battered front door to ensure it at least stayed up another night.

“Never mind, darling,” she said, embracing him. “Maybe we’ll be able to get singing lessons for you so you won’t stink out the place next time.”

He looked at her. “All I want you to know is that I love you,” he said, smiling.

She smiled back, winked, walked halfway up the stairs before turning back to Morten in the hall.

“Come on! It’s ‘adult time’!”
“Oh, sorry!” he said, scurrying up the stairs behind her.

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[Album Review] "Analogue" – a-ha

Analogue - a-haAlbum Title: Analogue
Artist: a-ha
Year: 2005
Running Time: 54m 47s

Track listing: 1 Celice; 2 Don’t Do Me Any Favours; 3 Cozy Prison; 4 Analogue; 5 Birthright; 6 Holyground; 7 Over the Treeopts; 8 Halfway Through the Tour; 9 The Fine Blue Line; 10 Keeper of the Flame; 11 Make It Soon; 12 White Dwarf; 13 The Summers of Our Youth

It’s a funny business, the music industry. There they were, persona non grata for so many years, but a few kind words from celebrity pals like Chris Martin and Robbie Williams, and suddenly a-ha have been catapulted back on to the shelves – and not the “40% off marked price” ones either.

Their comeback single, “Analogue (All I Want)”, hit the UK top 10 and this more concisely titled album, “Analogue”, is out now.

Most UK music lovers are unaware that a-ha released a couple of 90s albums before splitting for seven years, never mind their two post-reformation records, “Minor Earth | Major Sky” (2000) and “Lifelines” (2002).

“Lifelines” in particular was criticised for sounding too disjointed, having an army of producers and a heavy Euro-pop sound. For “Analogue”, a-ha have recruited Martin Terefe, producer of KT Tunstall’s “Eye To The Telescope”. If the idea was to move the band far away from their synth-leaning sound, then they’ve achieved that. It’s the best-produced a-ha album since 1993’s “Memorial Beach”.

But does the music match up?

“Celice” may be the first love-song written about a medieval torture device. Full of clever lyrical wordplay (“It’s in the way you hurt me … I know that I’m alive … Wrap yourself around me/Hold me tighter … You sharpen up my senses/I know you’re on my side”), it’s brimming with energy and tight, fast-paced electro-rock chords.

“Don’t Do Me Any Favours” is pretty nifty, full of the twisted bile that we’ve heard a-ha exude before (“You Wanted More”). “You offer your assistance but you won’t accept my help/You draw your own conclusions and there’s room for little else”, the singer complains. The piano track is very Coldplay-like and the middle-eight rough and ready.

Title track “Analogue” has hit written all over it and you can be sure it’s by design. Guitarist, Paul, re-worked the original version of the track with producer Max Martin (Backstreet Boys, Britney) and they came up with a powerful pop-rock number that was their biggest UK hit in 18 years.

When they slow it down, a-ha are often at their best, and once again there are moments of sublime quality here. “Keeper of the Flame” is Paul’s nod to The Beatles, drawing on nostalgic themes and “adolescent daydreams”. In “Birthright” Magne has written a most beautiful, soaring track that would probably make Keane blush and say “ah, yes – that’s the kind of thing we are trying to do”.

“The Fine Blue Line” is another Magne track, and although slow to start and somewhat non-descript, it rescues itself with a bristling final minute or so.

Second single, “Cozy Prison”, is a band favourite although it was found that its lush, dramatic tones were not suited to radio play (it charted at #39). The agoraphobic subject is encouraged to make his or her way in life (“There’s another life out there/And you should try it”), to ignore the “dead ends”, “the dark within” and fight the “panic” (“Every perfect moment is a hidden warning”).

“Holyground” and “Make it Soon” are lead singer Morten Harket’s two contributions. While the former is a polished, mid-tempo tale of faith (“We’re on holy ground/Take your pride/And lift it high”), the latter is more peculiar. With a slight mambo-feel, it starts plainly enough until the middle-eight erupts in to a near-heavy metal onslaught which is as powerful a sound as a-ha have ever recorded. For the most part though, it does little to help out a tune stuck in first gear.

Paul contributes two of the finest pieces on the record – “White Dwarf” is a beautiful, dreamy, melodic notion of intergalactic existence while “Over the Treetops”, featuring Graham Nash on harmonies, is a fine upbeat rocker.  His one misstep though is the Supergrass-meets-Beach Boys muddle of “Halfway Through the Tour. Nice melody, but nothing to write home about. The second half of the song is a dull instrumental coda that is a great advertisement for putting enjoyment before art.

Closing out the record is the Magne and Morten duet, “Summers of our Youth”. A slow-burning piano-led verse leads us in to the more electric-synth chorus. It gets livelier, adds some strings and the contrast between the Magne (verse) and Morten‘s (chorus) vocals works extremely well. Excellent stuff.

Overall the album probably lacks some meat and while it is more consistent than “Lifelines” it doesn’t have the quality song-writing of “Minor Earth | Major Sky”. Well worth getting your hands on.
3halfstar