I would like to start by saying how much I appreciate all the hard work Jan Omdahl has done. Without a doubt, writing this biography was psychologically challenging. I believe it was vital that a book like that should come out when it did. It was indeed high time a definitive attempt at some summing up was made.
Before I laid my hands on The Swing Of Things I thought of trying to formulate my own expectations. Having been a fan over a lengthy period, I hardly needed a rundown on well-known facts. What I was most looking forward to was the author arranging those facts into a system to form a picture that made sense as a whole. I guess that many of the readers shared my hopes as the book does not seem to be meant for those whose previous knowledge of the band is limited to Take On Me.
And yet in this respect the biography is not quite satisfactory. Entertaining stories, fascinating details and effective quotes are scattered throughout the book, but this is what they remain in the last analysis – stories, details and quotes. There is no comprehensible structure or storyline, so the conclusions Omdahl makes are somewhat unfounded. I’m aware of how difficult it is to make a harmonious narrative out of the often contradictory things Morten, Paul and Magne say and do, but I still think it is a regrettable drawback.
Another disappointment is the author’s focus on the band’s internal conflicts that often seems to be out of proportion. First, I would have spared the devoted fans reading the book this “slice of life.” The media have already done their best to drag all this into the light, so why rub more salt into the wounds? There is no denying the fact that to some extent confrontations are a-ha’s fuel, but the subject is surely not worthy of so much attention. Besides, I remember Magne saying once that Morten, Paul as well as himself were sorry to have been the first to mention the problem of conflicts. According to his words, they were partly to blame for the press bringing their relationships to the fore instead of concentrating on the music. But after reading this authorized biography you cannot help wondering why it is as full of “the troubles of being a-ha” as everything else is.
The negative aspects done away with, I think the chapters about each of the band members are of the greatest interest. They definitely yield a gripping insight into their attitudes and life away from the limelight. Many of the humorous remarks Omdahl makes throughout the book and in these chapters in particular are really to the point. Listening to the CD is also a treat – in my opinion, Days On End has an enormous potential, and it is exciting to hear what the best-known songs sounded like at the demo stage.
All in all, a book recommended to loyal fans who are hardened enough to be undaunted by the conflict element and do all the summing-up by themselves. If you are just that, it will undoubtedly make good reading.
Tags: Books, Reviews