Oct 28, 2022
By Michael James Hall
Norwegian pop heroes a-ha’s farewell tour (neatly dubbed “Ending on a High Note”) passed through a wildly enthused London Wembley Arena back in November 2010. It was a wonderful show, packed with sparkling hits, swooning ballads, and sweet sentiment, singer Morten Harket’s unique, alluring voice soaring above the synths to delight long-term fans.
Yet here we are in 2022 and a-ha’s second studio album since their reformation in 2015 has arrived. A measured, mature approach is supremely evident. This collection plays cousin to the kind of thoughtful balladry that the band once mastered with their emotive, skyscraping 1988 hit “Stay on These Roads” and further embraced on 2000’s underrated Minor Earth Major Sky album.
The problem is that while there are some tuneful and pleasurable offerings here, True North all too often verges on blandness. While “Bluest of Blue” has an addictive charm and the title track a truly epic sweep, elsewhere there is little of real distinction. “Bumblebee” seems like it may veer off into an interesting direction but then folds into another grayish, mid-paced shrug.
Everything from the playing to the production is definitively accomplished—yet, even on a more upbeat track such as “Make Me Understand” the sparks really don’t fly, all edge removed with a fine polish. As always Harket’s voice shines brightly, particularly on the music box lament “Between the Halo and the Horn” and tender acoustic late album track “You Have What It Takes,” but too often this doesn’t quite carry these inconspicuous, overly restrained songs.
While True North may not serve as a reassurance of greatness, hopefully it will act as a cue to explore the back catalogue of an often overlooked, often great, band. Surely this won’t be the last we hear from them. (www.a-ha.com)
Author rating: 5.5/10
Rate this album
Average reader rating: 6/10
No ratings have been recorded yet.