While not quite as strong as the band's debut, Scoundrel Days is still a-ha succeeding as a marketed "pretty boy" band which can connect musically and lyrically as much as any musical sacred cow. The opening two songs alone make for one of the best one-two opening punches around: the tense edge of the title track, featuring one of Morten Harket's soaring vocals during the chorus and a crisp, pristine punch in the music, and "The Swing of Things," a moody, elegant number with a beautiful synth/guitar arrangement (plus some fine drumming courtesy of studio pro Michael Sturgis) and utterly lovelorn lyrical sentiments that balance on the edge of being overheated without quite going over. Although the rest of the disc never quite hits as high as the opening, it comes close more often than not. A definite downturn is the band's occasional attempts to try and prove themselves as a "real" band by rocking out, as on "I've Been Losing You" -- there's really no need for it, and as a result they sound much more "fake," ironically enough. Other songs can perhaps only be explained by the need to translate lyrics -- "We're Looking for the Whales" isn't an environmental anthem, and neither is "Cry Wolf," but both also don't really succeed in using nature as romantic metaphor. When a-ha are on, though, they're on -- "October" snakes along on a cool bass/keyboard arrangement and a whispery vocal from Harket; "Maybe Maybe" is a quirky little pop number that's engagingly goofy; while "Soft Rains of April" captures the band at its most dramatic, with the string synths giving Harket a perfect bed to launch into a lovely vocal, concluding with a sudden, hushed whisper. The '80s may be long gone, but Scoundrel Days makes clear that not everything was bad back then.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett