A-ha‘s very last full length album before they split in 2010, Foot Of The Mountain promised to be a return to form for the band whose recent work, despite the odd cool song here and there, failed to match their quality 80’s stuff.
Even with their better recent albums, there was always an unevenness about them which took you out of it at various points. For every catchy hit there were five forgettable attempts at a catchy hit.
Can Foot Of The Mountain help A-ha end on a high note, at least?
Singer Morten Harket’s famously good at those, after all.
The album opens with “The Bandstand” and why that one wasn’t released as a single is beyond me as it’s clearly the best track on the album and really sets the wanted tone of the whole thing by feeling like classic yet also modern A-ha. It’s a clubby synthpop tune and a catchy one at that so definitely the perfect starting point. It is followed by the infinitely more upbeat “Riding The Crest” which isn’t bad despite its main hook sounding a lot like an extended ringtone.
“What There Is” is next and slows things down a little with a more paced beat and a longer build up. It’s another very decent, simple electro track with a memorable, softer chorus. It has that nostalgic tone which a lot of older A-ha songs had and a pretty melody so that’s good, at least. It is followed by the title track and lead single “Foot Of The Mountain” which starts off promisingly with nicely melodic verses but the chorus it delivers is sadly anti-climactic. Still, it’s an overall enjoyable, chilled-out track.
“Real Meaning” is song number 5 and it is a softer, cheesier effort. To be honest, it’s very easy to space out during this one. It’s the first dud on the album and is entirely skippable even if it is basically harmless. Another slow track is “Shadowside”, which was released as the album’s third single but, although its build up is a bit soporific, it makes up for it with a genuinely pretty chorus. With a little more energy, this track could have been much better but, as it stands, it’s ok.
Track 7, “Nothing Is Keeping You Here”, another single, starts off sounding a bit like Harry Nilsson‘s classic “Everybody’s Talkin'”. This one is let down by some much too easy lyrics which beg for more thought and imagination. Otherwise, it’s got an alright (if a bit sleepy) chorus and a slightly faster rhythm than the two songs preceding it. The stuff that inspired Coldplay is much more obvious in this one in that it’s… well, rather dull. The album, by this point, is definitely stuck in a lull, though. Another song which suffers from unimpressive lyrics is following track “Mother Nature Goes To Heaven” but, luckily, this is a far better song with a decent hook, a nicer chorus and a build up that actually works pretty well. The song develops at a good pace and, even though it would have been amazing had it been a bit darker, it’s a step in the right direction for the album.
“Sunny Mystery” is a dancier track and more of a departure from A-ha’s usual style but not in a bad way. It’s actually an entertaining song with a nice atmosphere to it, even if the hook is a little weak this time, again sounding close to a ringtone. Finally, we have “Start The Simulator” and it’s a strangely slow one to end on. On the plus side, the slightly sinister ballad has a weird Twin Peaksian quality to it in places (with a Radiohead-style vibe) but the hook is more reminiscent of Big Ben and it kinda goes off track sometimes. It’s not too bad though, it does grow on you.
So was Foot Of The Mountain a worthy album to end on?
Kind of. I mean, it’s in no way as good as A-ha’s earlier stuff but this is definitely a return to form of sorts for the band. While Analogue provided a couple of genuinely good songs but not much else, this one is much more consistent and does include at least a handful of decent tracks with only a couple of misfires.
Foot Of The Mountain is by no means a masterpiece but fans should lap it up and be satisfied enough with it.
3 Ziggies out of 5 ain’t bad.