It’s not a-ha’s fault that they’re Scandinavian and that since they became mega-selling global music sensations (in the early ’80s)‚ the connotations of being Scandi have changed quite a lot. At the time, being from Norway seemed properly exotic. Unlike, says ABBA, they looked like actual rockstars. Leather jackets and the lot (plus some knitwear). They had the looks, the musicianship and the teen appeal.
These days, a-ha look like an advert for avoiding the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. The lads, especially too-handsome-to-be-a-real-human frontman Morten Harket, are terrifyingly well-preserved and still enjoying being in a band as much as ever: i.e. not at all.
This doc, four years in the making, celebrates their 40th anniversary ‘together’ and is full of fan-pleasing footage from those early years, as well as cutesy childhood home movies that look like they were commissioned by Nudie jeans. But four decades on, a-ha’s airbrushed Nordic cool smacks of over-privilege and the kind of ‘issues’ that populate endless Nordic noirs. Guitarist Pål and keyboardist Magne have the air of men with many stored-up grievances, only they involve ancient touring incidents (Morten’s hogging of hair products evidently still rankles: ‘He’d use house paint when he ran out of spray’) rather than unsolved murders or missing children.
They’re still enjoying being in a band as much as ever – i.e. not at all
On one level, this is almost a really intriguing study of a very particular kind of first-world creative anxiety, but unfortunately, the fly-on-the-wall stuff just sounds like – as one of them calls it – ‘whining’. It looks like a real chore being in a-ha, around a-ha or possibly even a fan of a-ha. But their fans are – like Morten’s jawline – hardcore. I know some, and they will love every second of this, warts and all. Of course, there are no warts.
In UK cinemas Fri May 20.