Then in 2012, ‘Follow That Car!’ re-established their presence in a in the more synthpop friendly environment, with anticipation created for their next long playing offering.
A single ‘Change’ trailed ‘Based On A True Story’ in 2015 but fast forward to four years later, and their self-produced fourth album is finally here.
With a range of tempo variation contained within, ‘Based On A True Story’ is the undoubtedly the best album of DAYBEHAVIOR’s long if sporadic career. Always an act known for their for moody cinematics and lush dreamy vocals, Paulinda Crescentini, Carl Hammar and Tommy Arell have on this occasion included a number of more danceable numbers to counterpoint the more laid back aspects of their sound without losing any of their exquisite aesthetics.
Good examples of this can be heard in the fabulous Europop number ‘Driving In My Car’ and the opening ‘Burning Slowly’ with its classic emotive synthpop feel reminiscent of OMD combined with a swirling sweeping solo. The Italo flavoured ‘Change’ is all present and correct in extended 12 inch form amusingly threatening to break into ‘Axel F’, while the melodically bouncy but rigid ‘Tears That Dry’ could be mistaken for MARSHEAUX.
Frantic by DAYBEHAVIOR standards, ‘It All Started With A Train’ has a techno backbone offset by Paulinda Crescentini’s alluring whispers but it all works marvellously and when the synth solos kick it, another zone is duly entered.
For those who do prefer the more filmic side of DAYBEHAVIOR, ‘A Boy A Girl’ comes over like a Nouvelle Vague film theme.
Then there’s the Nordic melancholy of ‘There’s Nothing Else’ which ventures into A-HA territory with subtle guitars giving the feel of a Cold War spy drama.
The midtempo melancholy of ‘Serge’s Kiss’ makes the most of its chilling Jarre-like string machine, Simmons drums and unexpected vocoder but a major surprise is sprung with the solemn cello-laden ballad ‘Solitude’.
As ‘Based On A True Story’ heads towards the home straight, ‘A Perfect Day’ offers some angelic respite before ‘The Whispering Garden’ does what its title suggests and ‘Washed Away’ provides a dramatic orchestrated conclusion.
So Tommy Arell’s assertion that “The new album will have many of the classic DAYBEHAVIOR elements, but it will not sound like the previous albums” was more than wholly accurate.
A collection of quality Scandipop, ‘Based On A True Story’ has been worth the wait and is the ideal starting point to check out the wonderful widescreen music of DAYBEHAVIOR.
‘Based On A True Story’ is released by Graplur on 4th November 2019 as a download album from the usual digital outlets
Swedish synth trio DAYBEHAVIOR finally follow-up their previous single ‘Change’ with the airy moods of ‘There’s Nothing Else’.
From Carl Hammar, Tommy Arell and Paulinda Crescentini’s long awaited fourth album ‘Based on a true story’, the Nordic melancholy of ‘There’s Nothing Else’ at times, ventures into A-HA territory.
However, this is offset by Crescentini’s coolly alluring Nouvelle Vague vocals, affirming that “There is nothing else to do but walk away, I could drown this very moment if I stay…”
‘There’s Nothing Else’ exploits their cinematic sound to the max with a glorious dramatic solo while subtle guitars adding the tone of a spy drama soundtrack.
The accompanying visual presentation follows the lyric video format, with series of stark monochromatic images illustrating the widescreen backdrop counterpointed by moving colour images.
In an interview with ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in 2017, Tommy Arell said “The new album will have many of the classic DAYBEHAVIOR elements, but it will not sound like the previous albums. Some songs are harder to finish than others, but we will only include songs we all are happy with.”
DAYBEHAVIOR were invited to open for OMD on selected Scandinavian dates in 2018 and it was a shame that the trio were unable to fulfil those commitments, as their sound would have fitted in nicely with the aesthetic of previous openers like TINY MAGNETIC PETS, VILE ELECTRODES, MIRRORS and VILLA NAH.
‘There’s Nothing Else’ is available now as a download and is from the forthcoming album ‘Based on a true story’ released by Graplur
Ever bought an album on the strength of a single, only to find that “this is not the single I am looking for”??
As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been forever tinkering with their work. Sometimes it is to improve an album track for single release by remixing or even re-recording it. Or it is vice-versa to create a new vision for a song or just to make it sound more like the material on a latterly recorded long player.
But in many cases, it’s the version that was made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved. This list celebrates the frustration of being stuck with the wrong version and the dilemma of whether to shell out extra cash to go out and buy the proper version.
Restricted to one single per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order, here are 25 Single Versions That Are Better Than The Album Versions…
JOHN FOXX No-One Driving (1980)
While ‘Metamatic’ is an iconic long player and includes ‘Underpass’, its second single opted for a reworking of ‘No-One Driving’, rather than the more obvious ‘A New Kind Of Man’. Much busier and expansive than the comparatively tame album version, it provided JOHN FOXX with another Top40 hit, something which had eluded him in ULTRAVOX who interestingly also produced a better single version with ‘Quiet Man’ from ‘Systems Of Romance’ while he was in the band.
Available on the JOHN FOXX boxed set ‘Metamatic’ via Edsel Records
On OMD’s debut self-titled album, ‘Messages’ just a song with potential as a single. Utilising a pulsing repeat function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob, it was decided to re-record ‘Messages’ for its single release. Produced by Mike Howlett, the new version included the addition of separately recorded drums for a cleaner snap alongside the basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies to produce a magnificent UK chart hit that reached No13.
Despite being alongside DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE on the now iconic ‘Some Bizarre Album’, B-MOVIE were unable to secure a Top40 chart entry with the poignant magnificence of the Mike Thorne produced ‘Remembrance Day’. The struggle for success coupled with internal tensions led to the band fragmenting by 1983. Finally releasing an album in 1985 on Sire Records entitled ‘Forever Running’, it featured an inferior re-recording of ‘Remembrance Day’.
The combination of obscure lyrics from Ian Burden like “Stroke a pocket with a print of a laughing sound” and a screaming chant gave THE HUMAN LEAGUE their breakthrough hit. Produced by the late Martin Rushent, bursts of Roland System 700 white noise were trigged from an MC8 Micro-composer for the rhythm track. But for the subsequent ‘Dare’ album, ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ was reworked with a Linn Drum and with the chant also pushed back, it lost much of its dystopian tension.
More muscular and dynamic, ‘The Art Of Parties’ explored a funkier template was a move away from the mannered Roxy muzak that JAPAN had been associated with. Originally produced by John Punter, when it came to the album ‘Tin Drum’, new producer Steve Nye smoothed off some of the track’s tribal weirdness and muted its brassy punch. While the end result was tighter, synthier and had more melody, the band preferred to play the original single version live…
The first track on side two of the last two JEAN-MICHEL JARRE albums provided the trailer singles for radio and ‘Magnetic Fields’ was no different. But in a new approach, the French Maestro offered up a toughed up remix where the klanky lightweight tones of the Korg Rhythm KR55 were replaced by bangier drum samples while the synth stabs on the bridge were turned up. But as Jarre’s audience preferred albums, this superior remix got lost over the years and missed inclusion on his many compilations.
Everyone knows the wonderful hit single version of this Northern Soul cover with its hypnotic Roland Compurhythm running all the way through it. But for the ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album, ‘Tainted Love’ was shortened by 2 seconds while the second phrase became the first, thus strangely muting the emotive impact of the original single. Annoyingly, this inferior version crept onto the first SOFT CELL compilation ‘The Singles’ and the more recent ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ collection.
With its iconic honky tonk piano line, ‘Party Fears Two’ was a magnificent song about dealing with the perils of schizophrenia. It also kick started a brief period when ASSOCIATES subverted the UK charts with an avant pop approach that fitted in with the Synth Britannia template of the times. A Top10 hit and emotive to the nth degree, the original single version is still the best and total perfection, while the longer album remix with its ambient intro and stop ending lost some of the magic.
The original ‘Height Of The Fighting’ from the second side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was sonically an extension of ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware’s last album as a member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The more commercial single version took the funkier approach of the first side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, adding synthetic drums and a meatier bass synth attack. Also featuring the BEGGAR & CO brass section who had already played on records by SPANDAU BALLET, it was a glorious electronic soul hybrid.
Led by Iva Davies, the song which got Australian combo ICEHOUSE noticed by a wider audience in the UK during their tenure opening for SIMPLE MINDS was a slight reworking of the chilling synth laden ‘Icehouse’, the title track of their debut album from when the band were called FLOWERS. Featuring a strange offbeat and the mannerisms of GARY NUMAN before blitzing out for the song’s flanged guitar climax, ‘Icehouse’ was easily as good as anything on VISAGE’s eponymous debut.
Having been outflanked by DURAN DURAN in the New Romantic debut album stakes, SPANDAU BALLET explored Britfunk with ‘Chant No1′, but then took a strange about turn with their next album ‘Diamond’ featuring a number of ethnic art pieces. Fresh from working with ABC, Trevor Horn reworked Richard James Burgess’ understated production of ‘Instinction’ from the album. Throwing in extra synths played by Anne Dudley and extra bombastic percussion; it effectively saved SPANDAU BALLET’s career.
Still Matt Johnson’s finest five minutes as THE THE, ‘Uncertain Smile’ on its single release featured a wonderfully rigid TR808 pattern, lovely layers of synths and a variety of woodwinds including flute and sax. Produced by Mike Thorne, this fuller sounding and more emotive take far outstripped the bland and overlong ‘Soul Mining’ album cut produced by Paul Hardiman which included the extended boogie-woogie piano of Jools Holland tagged onto the end…
Inspired by the burgeoning New York club scene, Rusty Egan brought in John Luongo to remix ‘Night Train’ from ‘The Anvil’ album much to Midge Ure’s dismay; it lead to the diminutive Glaswegian ending his tenure with VISAGE. But Luongo’s rework was sharper and more rigid, pushing forward the female backing vocals to soulful effect in particular and replacing the clumpier snare sounds of the original album version with cleaner AMS samples.
Extended version available on the compilation boxed set ’12”/80s – Volume 2′ (V/A) via Family Recordings
At over eight and a half minutes, the album version of ‘Sister Surprise’ on the ‘Mad Max’ inspired ‘Warriors’ was far too long, plus something was missing. For its single release, this slice of synthetic funk rock was shortened and sharpened, while a new vocal hook was added over Numan’s now ubiquitous “woah-oh-oh” refrains which provided a much better chorus. Despite this improvement and an appearance of ‘Top Of The Pops’, it was the lowest charting GARY NUMAN single to date…
“Somebody’s fooling around…” – the ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ album sessions had not been a happy experience for DURAN DURAN with the prolonged mixing leading to a fall out between bassist John Taylor and producer Alex Sadkin. ‘The Reflex’ had potential but this was not fully realised. Enter Nile Rodgers who gave the track a rhythmic lift and played around with the then-new innovation of sampling, using various vocals to create new hooks and phrases for a monster international hit.
Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Greatest’ via EMI Records
Comedian Lenny Henry summed things up best in a sketch where he entered a record shop to buy a single and was then offered a plethora of versions by the assistant:”I JUST WANT THE VERSION THEY GOT RIGHT!” – ZTT’s marketing exploits with 12 inch mixes are well known, but they played around with album versions too and with the version of ‘Two Tribes’ on ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’, they got it wrong and took out the piper call middle eight!
Available on the FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD album ‘Frankie Said’ via Union Square
There once was a time when it was not cool to like ABBA but BLANCMANGE changed all that with their version of ‘The Day Before You Came’, a song many regard as the last ABBA song. Combining that noted Swedish melancholy and melodicism with the artful quirkiness of Synth Britannia, the more compact single version produced by Peter Collins considered improved on the ‘Mange Tout’ album version helmed by John Luongo and made more of Neil Arthur’s deep melodramatics.
The collective strength of A-HA over the years has been to produce great melancholic pop in that classic Nordic tradition, but also add a contrasting glorious optimism. The photogenic trio have offered many great ballads over the years such as ‘Stay On These Roads’ and ‘Summer Moved On’, but their best known one is ‘Hunting High & Low’. Originally produced by Tony Mansfield, it was dramatically remixed for single release by Alan Tarney with the addition of orchestrations by Anne Dudley.
Originally produced by Stephen Hague, ‘Suburbia’ was a good if slightly underwhelming album track from ‘Please’ that got transformed into a more fully realised epic in a re-recording produced by Sarm West graduate Julian Mendelson. Complete with barking dogs, widescreen synths and thundering rhythms, the more aggressive overtones in the single version of PET SHOP BOYS‘ clever social commentary made ‘Suburbia’ a big hit, particularly in West Germany.
With DEPECHE MODE’s Trans-Atlantic breakthrough album ‘Music For The Masses’, the good but meandering track heading side two never realised its potential. But with PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, ERASURE and MADONNA remixer Shep Pettibone ‘Behind The Wheel’, a funkier bassline and syncopated rhythms were added to the much better single version, giving the song a far more accessible groove that could fill alternative club dancefloors in America.
‘Republic’ produced by Stephen Hague was not the finest hour of NEW ORDER, so it was something of a surprise when London Records chose to release the underwhelming ‘Spooky’ as the fourth single from it. But it was remixed by FLUKE, a house dance trio who had already worked with BJÖRK and were influenced by CABARET VOLTAIRE and GIORGIO MORODER. Rhythmically more spacious, this superior ‘Minimix’ allowed the best elements of the song to shine.
Available on the NEW ORDER single ‘Spooky’ via London Records
Listen to the ‘So Tough’ album version of ‘You’re In A Bad Way’ and it is far too understated. With a brighter punchier recording helmed by A-HA producer Alan Tarney for the single version, the acoustic guitar was pushed back while vintage synths and a lovely ‘Telstar’ motif was added for a vastly superior rendition of the song. Sometimes more can mean more and this slice of HERMAN’S HERMITS inspired pop brilliance gave SAINT ETIENNE a well-deserved No12 hit single.
Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was because he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. But trance enthusiasts who loved Dutch producer Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Sounding not unlike JEAN-MICHEL JARRE set to a 4/4 dance beat, this single version actually reached No4 in the UK charts.
In a poor period for Andy and Vince, the ‘Loveboat’ album’s problem wasn’t just the emphasis on guitar driven dynamics, but it also lacked the usual ERASURE charm despite production by Flood. Even the album’s one potentially great song ‘The Moon & The Sky’ was missing an uplifting chorus, something which was only fixed with the Heaven Scent Radio Rework version by Jason Creasey that was later released as an extended play single.
With vocals by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE vocalist Erlend Øye, ‘Remind Me’ was one of the highlights of RÖYKSOPP’s excellent debut album ‘Melody AM’ which fitted in with dance music culture’s penchant for chill-out. But for single release, the track was given a more rhythmic KRAFTWERK styled feel via ‘Someone Else’s Radio Remix’ by Marisa Jade Marks. The track drew in new listeners, although they would have had a major shock to the system on hearing the album original…
Available on the RÖYKSOPP download single ‘Remind Me’ via Wall Of Sound
First published in 2011, ‘Is That The 12” Mix?’ was author and music aficionado Rob Grillo’s personal but well-informed history of the 12” single.
In keeping with its story tracing the emergence of the extended remix as an artform in its own right, Grillo has now remade and remodelled his book in a new 2016 version. Retitled ‘Is That The 12″ Remix?’, the new edition features contributions from the likes of Neil Tennant and Rusty Egan as well as more photos and an extra 20,000 words.
Among those words, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK are interviewed in a chapter entitled ‘Providing a Service – The Fan(atic)s part one’ which discusses the rise of the independent music blog. Meanwhile, the site’s 25 Favourite Classic 12 inch Versions listing also makes an appearance in the ‘Chartfile’ appendix. Rob Grillo chatted about why more can mean more…
What was the motivation behind a second edition of ‘Is That The 12” Mix?’?
Since the first edition came out, I’ve build up many more contacts and relationships in the music industry, so I was able to use some of them, and additional information to build a new edition. Plus there were one or two bits that needed updating or correcting.
I’d just helped Demon Music with a few Hi-NRG related album reissues, one of those being from MIQUEL BROWN. It bugged me that I hadn’t used an image of her in the first edition, so it inspired me to get some more permissions and start that new edition. I always felt that the first edition could have been promoted a little better, part of that being my own fault. It seemed right to change the title of the book from ‘12” MIX’ to ’12’’ REMIX’, reflecting the whole concept of what the book is about.
So the original book has enabled you to get involved in the ‘Disco Discharge’ reissues?
Yes. Sort of. When I discovered that the team were planning to put out Ian Levine related issues on the ‘Disco Recharge’ side project, my suggestions were probably taken more seriously because I’d done the book and written about Levine himself.
Then I got involved in sourcing of and identification of certain mixes, not easy when the US mix has tiny differences from the UK mix and that very few people have actually realised. It did help that I have an almost complete set of Record Shack 12” vinyl, that’s the label with which Levine enjoyed his 80s resurgence before starting his own labels.
Any good remix has edits and sections left out. Have you done anything to the book on that front?
Yes, every chapter has had a remix, so to speak. Many have been expanded, although I felt that odd bits needed shortening or leaving out entirely. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards reworked their own production of SISTER SLEDGE ‘Lost in Music’ to great effect in 1984, it’s been a bit like that with the book, remixing and reworking it myself rather than calling up Ben Liebrand or Shep Pettibone to do the honours 🙂
What did you specifically want to include now, that you couldn’t do back in 2009?
Updated and corrected information in particular, and, as mentioned above a few more rights to use images – particularly from Ian Levine. Luckily Simon White, who I helped out with the ‘Disco Recharge’ releases was able to assist in that matter.
I wanted to do on a feature on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in particular as your site started just as the first edition came out, and one of the other featured sites changed its name completely, so that needed updating too.
Since the first edition was published, there’s been a resurgence in vinyl. Is it something you’re still into today?
Yes, absolutely. There’s not much I regret in life, but one thing I really can’t get my head around is why I got rid of loads of vinyl about 20 years ago.
I’ll never fathom out why I did that.
A couple of months ago, I had a rummage around an absolutely cracking second hand vinyl record shop in nearby Huddersfield and arrived back home with no less than 23 12” inch singles from the 1980s.
I went back last month and bought 29 more. I had no idea the shop existed this time last year.
There’s still a load of old vinyl I need for my collection, much of which I prefer to stumble across in stores or car boots rather than hunt down more easily online on sites such as Discogs. I haven’t bought much new vinyl, although I should do really.
What you do feel about the phenomenon of youngsters buying vinyl, but not actually playing it and listening to the download instead?
I guess it’s a bit of a novelty among the younger generation. It’s nice that they have the physical product, because you tend to cherish it a bit more compared with a download that you can’t see, or hold, or smell, and can delete when you’ve got bored of it. It’s all about immediate gratification these days, so when you’re bored of a download you just delete. They won’t throw away their records the same way.
Hopefully they will appreciate the artwork and the physical product the way our own generation does, but I don’t really think we’re going to see another generation of ‘record collectors’.
An interesting paradox of the popularity of the multiple twelve inch remix phenomenon pioneered by labels like ZTT, is that deluxe CD reissues are now often packed to the brim…
Is that a paradox? It’s great that lots of mixes that have been hard to find have been put together to complement a remastered album or compilation.
It’s a bugger when the labels don’t get it right though as there are so many instances of wrong mixes and poor remastering on many CD reissues. Take ALTERED IMAGES ‘Don’t Talk To Me About Love’ – the 12” mix has never appeared on CD, only some slightly butchered version that was used on an ALTERED IMAGES compilation several years ago. Every subsequent compilation using that song has used the same, incorrect master. That’s just lazy.
I liked the SWING OUT SISTER ‘It’s Better To Travel’ deluxe set because the band listened to the fans and changed the tracklisting, and the mixes they used, when it was pointed out that the set could be improved.
What was your favourite chapter to write and why?
I don’t really have a favourite chapter. Some are about the music scene in the 1980s, while others are about my own childhood – the long gone Greenhead Youth Club (Keighley’s very own Blitz club) for instance, so each chapter was something I enjoyed putting together (and in this case, remixing).
Your top 10 five favourite 12” remixes and why?
‘Two Tribes (annihilation)’ by FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, which is among most people’s favourite mixes.
‘It’s My Life (Steve Thompson’s US remix)’ by TALK TALK… how to remix a song properly; Thompson had a knack of making a great song sound even better in remixed form.
I adore his mix of A-HA’s ‘The Sun Always Shines on TV’ too, although I notice you prefer the original 12” to his mix.
NEW ORDER’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’ is pretty perfect, although that’s really a full-length mix rather than an extended version.
‘Indestructible (Phil Harding & Ian Curnow mix)’ by THE FOUR TOPS, one of the best mixes to come out of the PWL studios. Not everyone’s cup of tea I know. The rest you’ll read about in the book 🙂
And the remix that on paper should have been brilliant, but turned out to be rubbish?
FICTION FACTORY ‘Feels Like Heaven’. A straight extended version would have been great, but in the pre-digital age, new mixes were often created instead.
It worked for DURAN DURAN, but the 12” mix that the label commissioned for ‘Feels Like Heaven’ seemed to lack all the vibrancy of the original 7” mix. Also, have you heard the alternative 12” remix of ‘Indestructible’ that Arista put out in the UK, the ‘Infinity dance mix’? It’s the worst remix ever in the history of the world.
Even worse than any of those awful 90s techno remixes that sounded nothing like the original mixes. Someone should have been shot for approving it for release.
Like writing and photography, has the easy accessibility of technology made the remix less of an artform these days, with a lower quality acceptability threshold than in the past?
Yes. It was always nice to have an extended version, and often an extended remix.
ZTT did the multiple remix thing really well in the 80s, but I haven’t time for the multiple remixes that you might get on PET SHOP BOYS or NEW ORDER CD singles these days. They are iconic bands, with iconic 12” mixes, but their new output, as good as it is, is just remixed to death.
Saying that, the latter’s ‘Complete Music’ set does contain some great straight extended versions of the tracks from ‘Music Complete’.
What style of remix do you enjoy these days?
As I’ve alluded to earlier, a straight extended version, or remix that keeps most of the original.
With regards electronic music, there seems to be a lot of books on the dance scene but few on say, synthpop. Does synthpop still have a general credibility issue in your view?
Synthpop seems to have more credibility now than it did in the 1980s. Today’s acts are not afraid to talk about their 80s influences. Credibility seems to have been more forthcoming since LA ROUX’s brief surge to the top of the tree a few years back…
How do you see music blogging these days? What is the difference between a site that gets it right, and a site that gets it wrong?
Let’s just say that sites that get it wrong don’t tend to last very long or attract many readers.
What new acts do you rate today as being as good as those heritage acts we loved back in the day?
I don’t pay enough attention to today’s bands. MARSHEAUX are still making great music, although I still prefer to buy new music from old bands… ABC, DURAN DURAN, OMD, NEW ORDER… their output is every bit as good as much of their output back in the day. Saying that, I daren’t tell you which acts I’ve seen live recently. I would lose all credibility….
What’s next for you?
Good question… well the novel ‘Picture This’ has had some amazing reviews, although we could do with a lot more sales if there’s going to be a sequel to that. I get a lot of requests and offers from book companies to do sports books, which is where I started out, but I have no interest in pursuing that any more. Let’s just see how well the new edition of ‘Is That The 12” (Re)Mix’ does.
I have a great idea for some 12” CD compilations (of which there are very many these days) that offers something a bit different… and there is a possible new music book in the pipeline, but that depends on a lot of complicated copyright issues….watch this space on that one…
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rob Grillo
But like many of their peers such as ULTRAVOX, DURAN DURAN and SPANDAU BALLET, the sum proved to be greater than the individual parts. So with no contractual pressures or touring commitments, Morten Harket, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and Magne Furuholmen quietly reunited and recorded new material.
A-HA’s collective strength over the years has been to produce great melancholic pop in that classic Nordic tradition, but also add a contrasting glorious optimism for that vital all-embracing lift.
Although often tagged as a teenybopper band in the UK, A-HA always had a darker edge compared with DURAN DURAN and even their only British No1 ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ was shaded in gloom.
This demeanour was reflected in the opening numbers at the O2 Arena, ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ and ‘Cry Wolf’, the latter’s pop angst amusingly accompanied by an animation of a bopping wolf! The beautiful ‘Stay On The Roads’ got the evening’s first mobiles-in-the-air moment.
Meanwhile the first of only three songs from the new album came in the shape of the wonderful ‘Cast In Steel’ title track. The duet of ‘Crying In The Rain’ with backing singer Anneli Drecker provided another sensitive focal point, but the rhythmical DEPECHE MODE pulse of ‘Mother Nature Goes To Heaven’ and Waaktaar-Savoy’s rock out on ‘Sycamore Leaves’ provided some artistic diversity.
Morten Harket himself provided an interesting case study as a front man. Still blessed with great cheek bones and a fine voice, something had to be missing and it was his interaction (or rather the lack of it) with the audience. Indeed, it was Furuholmen who acted as Master of Ceremonies from behind his keyboards while Harket appeared to be like a lost teenager at Specsavers, unable to decide on his choice of eyewear, swapping between shades, standard specs and nothing at all!
And while Harket’s crying falsetto was present and correct, the muted sustain on some numbers was an indication that age was beginning to take its toll on his voice.
As if to substantiate the point, after ‘We’re Looking For The Whales’, Harket walked off stage to leave Paul Waaktaar-Savoy to take the lead on ‘Velvet’; now while his vocal was good, Magne Furuholmen’s star turn on ‘Lifelines’ was less impressive, the keyboardist even coming clean on his capabilities during his introduction.
It was an interesting diversion and they might have gotten away with it on 2005’s ‘Analogue’ tour. But on a final tour with not much change from a hundred pounds for a ticket, this was an odd decision. To prompt even more head scratching, Anneli Drecker then took the lead vocal for a surprise rendition of ‘Here I Stand & Face the Rain’ from the ‘Hunting High & Low’ album. And while she gave a worthwhile performance, there was a feeling among those present that it was Morten Harket who they really wanted to sing it.
Harket did return and from the new album, he went straight into ‘She’s Humming A Tune’ which dropped hints of ‘Scoundrel Days’ in a lower key with bursts of bottle neck guitar from Waaktaar-Savoy. ‘Scoundrel Days’ itself appeared as a magnificent climax to the main section of the show following excellent, emotive performances of ‘Foot Of The Mountain’ and ‘Hunting High & Low’,
Beginning the encore with the marvellous U2 influencing ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’, the creepy projection of violin playing mannequins added to the atmosphere before disappointingly, ‘Under The Makeup’ made its appearance, stripped of the Bond Theme elements that made the recorded version so enjoyable.
But a powerful rendition of ‘The Living Daylights’ made up for it, before a rousing ‘Take On Me’ completed an enjoyable evening.
The performance affirmed why A-HA have been able continue their career into the 21st Century. But with cracks beginning to show, the time is maybe now right to finally call it a day. They have nothing more to prove and even now, they have more great songs on ‘Cast In Steel’ than many bands manage in an entire career.