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Sunday, November 1, 2015

A-Ha: Cast In Steel


1) Cast In Steel; 2) Under The Makeup; 3) The Wake; 4) Forest Fire; 5) Objects In The Mirror; 6) Door Ajar; 7) Living At The End Of The World; 8) Mythomania; 9) She's Humming A Tune; 10) Shadow Endeavors; 11) Giving Up The Ghost; 12) Goodbye Thompson.

I honestly do not understand why they need to do this. Morten Harket has a perfectly fine solo career going on, and now this is what, the third A-Ha reunion in history? Fourth? Fifth? What do we do with Ending On A High Note, rename it to save face or pretend it never existed? «Final tour», my ass. If you're gonna go, go in style. Take an example from the frickin' Beatles.

Besides, the new album does little to quench the indignation, and so I would like to keep it short. Not only is this no Analogue (and God knows I've secretly always hoped for them to make one more Analogue), this isn't even a Minor Earth Major Sky. Instead, it is a completely by-the-book, song-by-song-predictable «A-Ha-ish» album: fragile, bittersweet romance non-stop, with each song setting exactly the same mood as the previous one and we all know very well what that mood is. A dozen updates on ʽSummer Moved Onʼ, without even one single song of the same epic caliber. Rumor has it that many of these were actually outtakes and quick polish jobs on old ideas, and I believe this — just a quickie to serve as an incentive for more touring.

Supportive fans will want to argue that this is what the band does best, or point out the awesome shape in which Harket's voice still finds itself, or at least state that, you know, this is an improve­ment on Foot Of The Mountain. And yes, the songs are a little less embarrassing. But at least Foot set up a curious goal — recapture the inspired innocence of the band's early synth-pop be­ginnings — and it was instructive to see it fail. Cast In Steel sets itself no goals: it is just a bunch of tolerable, unimpressive, unambitious adult contemporary pop songs that all sound the same. I mean, believe it or not, the exceptional status of A-Ha was due to their not being a one-trick pony: over that ʽSummer Moved Onʼ vibe, they could always drop a touch of hard rock, or a splosh of colorful psychedelia, or a rousing anthemic call. Nothing like that here.

Of course, there are melodies, and sometimes briefly memorable vocal hooks, and yes, Harket is still a fine singer, though, creepy as it is, he seems to have almost completely lost (or discarded) his lower range as he grew older. Long-time fans who just want to have more of the same will not be disappointed. Me, I can't even bring myself to writing a few words about even one single indi­vidual song on here. Just keep touring, guys, as long as you're still able to wring some emotion out of the old classics — the new ones are as thumbs down-worthy as they come.

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