A profile of Norwegian synth-pop band a-ha is probably not, on paper, the rock-doc everybody felt they had been ready for. Some will even greet the information of A-ha: The Film with a mildly incredulous smirk. And certainly, it’s a frustration with the refusal of the ‘critical’ music press to ever give them a lot credibility that runs by way of this stressed, usually uncomfortable movie. Even when they did on the peak of their fame — as singer (and “poser with perspective”) Morten Harket wryly admits — embrace the Smash Hits shoots, Saturday-morning-telly phone-ins and adolescent adoration.
Brief-sighted important dismissal is a destiny suffered by a glut of legendary ’80s pop bands, particularly those that had been bedroom-poster-friendly and/or boasted a largely teenage-girl fanbase. Much less predictable, maybe, on condition that perky, heartthrob repute, is the opposite essential supply of irritation for a-ha’s members: one another. It’s this stress — primarily between founding members Magne Furuholmen (keyboards), the strongest voice right here, and the deceptively taciturn Pål Waaktaar (guitar) — that makes the documentary, tellingly “starring in alphabetical order”, a each edgy and engrossing watch. As a-ha aficionados will know, theirs just isn’t a venture based mostly on friendship; extra a sporadic tolerance and mutual, grudging respect. However the extent of this may come as a shock, even because it lends the movie darkly comedian moments (“Ultimately, we simply wish to bash one another’s brains out,” Furuholmen observes early on. He won’t be joking).
What comes by way of is the band’s expertise, sincerity and pure musicality.
Administrators Thomas Robsahm and Aslaug Holm provide wistful context with early-years biography winningly animated within the fashion of the long-lasting ‘Take On Me’ vid, and there’s absorbing stuff on the trio’s first days on the ’80s London pop and trend scene (Human League, Mushy Cell et al) — though a-ha sceptics could also be shocked to search out them itemizing Uriah Heep, Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix as key influences. However because the years cross, the temper, music and movie darken, as outdated beefs come to the fore. It’s fairly startling to listen to that Furuholmen, the creator of one in all pop’s most iconic keyboard riffs (aged 14!), nonetheless longs for the guitar he feels he was pressured by Waaktaar into giving up after they had been nonetheless youngsters in school; much more in order that his pivotal contribution to ‘Take On Me’ was deemed comparatively insignificant when it got here to the writing credit.
It’s not all doom and gloom, although. A phase on the evolution of stated hit (initially referred to as ‘The Juicy Fruit Music’ as a result of it reminded them of a chewing-gum advert) is enjoyable, as is a recap of their notorious run-in with John Barry when making Bond theme ‘The Residing Daylights’ (Barry allegedly referred to as them “Hitler Youth”). Props, too, for the “Make a-ha nice once more” baseball cap.
There aren’t any fireworks in Robsahm and Holm’s strategy — besides in a single tetchy rehearsal for the acoustic reveals, which sees the widely reflective, Zen-like Harket momentarily lose his rag. However what comes by way of is the band’s expertise, sincerity and pure musicality, due respect paid to the affect they’ve had on the likes of everybody from Coldplay to The Weeknd. And given the energetic involvement of all band members (plus their companions) — and the actual fact a-ha are very a lot nonetheless collectively, presently in the course of one other worldwide tour — it’s an admirably candid piece. ‘Sensitive’? All the higher for it.