The new a-ha album Cast In Steel came out last night. And I’m listening to it right now. I’ve been listening to it most of the morning, truth be told. I’ve missed several important phone calls and ignored all my colleagues in a meeting. These people must just understand. After all, I’m usually very accommodating. Today is different, though, because a-ha’s new album came out today and that’s actually far more important to me than they are right now.
I’ll obviously have to do a proper review at some stage (of the album, not the colleagues), but for the moment, have this: First thoughts (spoiler: I’ve been listening to excerpts and track leaks for the last couple of months, so these are actually not my first thoughts at all) are that it is very Radio 2. This is no longer the cutting edge of pop music. This is mature music for a more mature audience. A Radio 2 listening audience.
However, there remains, amongst the music for old people, hints of the electronic synth-pop which made a-ha so popular 30 (*weep*) years ago. That ting-ting-ting in the chorus of The Wake, the first few bars of Forest Fire, which could be straight off 1985’s Hunting High And Low, will happily take you back to younger days.
Then add the 5 bonus tracks: demo versions and interesting remixes of previous releases, and you’ve got a proper treat for fans like me who have been around for too long since the early days. And there’s more on the way, with a concert tour (yes, I shall be making plans) and the 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition Box Set of Hunting High and Low [lengthy tracklist here] coming out later this month (strike while the iron is hot).
With their new (and allegedly last) album out next week, a-ha have finally got around to releasing the video for Under The Makeup: the first single off Cast In Steel. I’ll be honest, aside from the soaring James Bond-esque strings, it’s not one of my favourites by them and that was a bit worrying. Thankfully, the next offering, called The Wake sounds much more like my kind of thing, replete, as it is, with OMD-style ding-y keyboards and an 80’s synthpop feel, but more of that sometime soon.
So – here it is, starring Sofie Gråbøl and Frida “no accents in my surname” Farrell:
Sadly, given all the teasers and the generated suspense, they messed up a bit with the upload to YouTube, meaning that lots of Europe, Africa and apparently all of North and South America couldn’t watch due to “international content restrictions”. Thus, the video above is uploaded from the ridiculously named “WeWantA-HAandMortenHarket InTheFrenchMedia”. They might have a looney name and a niche agenda, but they can at least put 200 seconds of (ahem – pirated) video on the internet better than Universal music. So… y’know… good for them.
As for the video… ja. I’ve watched it several times now, and I’m still not 100% sure of what’s going on, aside from the unfortunate demise of our protagonist. Are those… are those… Yurts? Do Pal and Magne escape? Whose side are they on anyway? What’s in the briefcase and why is that woman preparing a butternut in the middle of the Scandinavian wilderness?
Are you as lost as I am?
All in all, it’s not a great start to the whole Cast In Steel saga. There was never going to be massive commercial appeal for this anyway, but please – it should at least leave the fans happy. This, awkwardly… hasn’t… doesn’t.