Features

Saturday Deluxe / 4 July 2015

underthemakeup

Listen to a-ha’s Under The Makeup

Those Norwegian purveyors of melancholy we like to call a-ha, have this week made available a song from their forthcoming album Cast In Steel. Under The Makeup is a windswept and rather beautiful string-laden track that really delivers, with a typically pointed lyric of regret and miscommunication. The opening lines are classic Paul Waaktaar-Savoy: “This is how it ends, each on our own / unless we pretend,  meanwhile our hearts turn to / stone shaped by wind, boulders slowly moulded over time, here within”.

a-ha and Duran Duran are both releasing albums at the same time of course. While this is no Blur v Oasis showdown, you can’t help but compare the heavyweights of the 1980s, as they regroup for a new studio album. I’m a big fan of both bands, but if you listen to the two songs, Duran’s Pressure Off and Under The Makeup, the latter is the track I want to play more. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of their very best work, it just has more depth than the DD effort. You can imagine Waaktaar-Savoy writing Under The Makeup on an acoustic guitar in a few hours, whereas Duran Duran’s Pressure Off feels a little bit like songwriting via committee and a team of crack producers and musicians. It lacks a bit of heart. Of course, full judgement will be reserved until September when we get to hear both albums in full. In the meantime take a listen to the songs below and please leave a comment – would love to hear your opinions!


Tomb Of Memories exploded packshot

Paul Young: new four-CD collection

There was an amazing reaction this week to the newly announced Paul Young four-CD set that Sony Music asked me to compile. Thanks so much for all your positive vibes and encouraging comments. All 500 signed copies of Tomb of Memories: The CBS Years 1982-1994 sold out in little over 24 hours, which suggests that this has really hit the spot in terms of the rarities and unreleased material that is being offered as well as the price tag. If you missed out on the signed version, then the standard edition is of course still available to pre-order through the usual channels. Much more insight on this release over the next few months.

Read more about the new Paul Young ‘CBS Years’ 4CD set.


Rolling Stones / Marquee Club CD+DVD winner

On Thursday on the SDE Facebook page we offered a copy of the excellent Rolling Stones ‘From the Vault’ Marquee Club Live in 1971 to one reader. Congratulations to Sean Rogers from Canada who was randomly selected at the winner. Sean, please get in touch and we’ll get your prize out to you.

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48 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 4 July 2015

  1. Koen says:

    Even back in the 80s a-ha was quality… never ever Duran Duran could tip a-ha…. not even in 2015… just a personal opinion ofcourse

    • MrDJP says:

      Agreed. A-ha’s quality albums like Memorial Beach have been criminally overlooked by the masses.

    • Mark says:

      Yes it is just an opinion and you’re wrong. A-ha’s internationally recognised ‘debut’ (actually a second album if the old songs on the deluxe set were ever compiled on their own album) fell well short of Duran’s first, and they didn’t make a five star piece till 1990, though their best 80s album “Scoundrel Days” only felt short by a smidge. It was because sie2 was weaker than one, and ‘Cry Wolf’ not a good choice of single over the two far better tunes that begin the album. Duran bettered “Rio” (a fine fine album itself) with “Notorious” easily, and eclipsed A-ha, but then DD are the best all male group and were there at the start of the 80s. They continued to match A-ha in 1990 with the absurdly hated but cool “Liberty” album. Of course since A-ha returned in 2000, their music has been better than ever and finally matching Duran now that their somewhat dated 80s approach has been replaced by far slicker mature grooves and lyrics. But Duran have had their best decade creatively since 2000’s great “Pop Trash”, A-ha matching them, the only slight misstep for both being the generally favoured (why?) safe old-man approach of both “Astronaut” and “Analogue” respectively, both of them good but nowhere near the beauty, excitement, and experimental wow and darkness of the multi-stranded approach of DD’s “Pop Trash” and two more masterpieces “Red Carpet Massacre” and “All You Need Is Now” while A-ha managed their three with “Minor Earth, Major Sky”, “Lifelines” and “Foot Of The Mountain”. Admittedly with such a strike rate, both new albums will struggle to live up to them, but as both bands-and the criminally ignored Alphaville beat the hell out of the overrated and bizzarely critically bethroed Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, U2, Simple Minds, Madness and Pet Shop Boys, all of whom are not album bands, except the 1993 PSBoys album “Very”.

      But then I don’t put ridiculous demands on the bands I love that are whipping the competition, as are still the few decent 80s females still around, when they’re given any attention at all. Duran Duran have always been the band to take easy shots at-proof just how pathetic the world is that let utter pieces of trash like Madonna, Minogue, Carey, Oasis, Blur and others do their boring, defunct thing way past their very dubious shelf lives! Duran are better than ever-their weakest album was actually their 1983 2Ragged Tiger” bit of nonsense, bless it. Since 1985, they’be broken out of their fluffy New Romantic world and started taking on far more serious and up to date approaches both lyrically and musically and have always been one of the most underrated bands out there-sure everyone knows them, but only to pathetically and wrongly state they were fine in the early 80s and that’s it! Imagine if anyone else said this about those overrated bands I mentioned earlier, mnot to say the totally rubbish Madonna-the world would have fits! Does THAT make sense? Where#’s everyone’s sense of proportion and logic on music already? Duran have eclipsed their early 80s stuff easily. And continue to do so. As have and do A-ha and the brill Alphaville.

  2. Mark Jobson says:

    a-ha is the easy winner. Duran Duran will get the sales but a-ha has the artistry.

    • Mark says:

      No, they both have the artistry. Stop feeling you have to pick one over the other-they’re both great, and as A-ha often play it safe and Duran don’t, they get far more cricticism than they actually deserve, but they’re actually generally far braver, buth both bands rock. Its’s one like Depeche Mode and Simple Minds-boring repetitive drones and bombastic guitar banalities that deserve the criticism and should go away!

  3. Craig Hedges says:

    On the first hearing of a-ha song I was a bit underwhelmed but now I’ve given a few listened I think it will one of those that will continue to grow. It wasn’t what I was expecting as the band were talking about recapturing the ‘classic’ a-ha sound and this isn’t it – this is something else.
    They’ve posted the album sleeve on twitter and its fantastic!

  4. Daran says:

    I believe A-ha have long since stopped trying to write pop ‘hits’ though. Duran sound to me like they are still trying hard to. The common thread is that they both end up making great music. Everyone wins

  5. Gyula says:

    This song with an acoustic guitar and a piano would be one of the best a-ha ballads….in the whole carrier..the strings are too much, for me…..

  6. Gyula says:

    Why there is no physical release? This is the future….I don´t want to belong?

    • Darren says:

      I agree Gyula. If something doesn’t have a physical release, I treat it as if it doesn’t exist. I don’t even listen. My music collection is CD only. There is still plenty to discover on existing CDs and not enough time to listen to it all. So, artists that release only downloads are invisible to me. I’m sure many people of my age are the same way.

      • alan hansen says:

        i agree in that i have almost NO interest in virtual releases. i want to ‘own’ it – not pretend that i do. i want physicality to hold, look at, enjoy the liner notes and artwork, lyrics, etc. selling these digital-only virtual releases, to me, is like selling ghosts. great… if you believe in that sort of thing.

        • Paul Sinclair says:

          Worth keeping an eye out for physical releases in Germany. Sometimes stuff comes out there and nowhere else – Foot of the Mountain CD+DVD deluxe being a good example, along with the CD single of Did Anyone Approach You? Although at the moment it’s not looking hopeful…

  7. André says:

    I admire both songs. Although I am more an a-ha fan than a Duranie, I was drawn more to Pressure Off because of the lively, catchy riff (and the oh, oh, oh, oh!), but Under The Makeup is a majestic grower and I think will become a classic in it’s own right. One cannot really compare the songs as they are both very different.

    Who would have thought both these bands would still be releasing music over thirty years laters despite them having gone through the peaks and troughs of their careers. You gotta love 80s bands!

  8. Mike says:

    Think no debate, Pressure Off is so shallow its opaque!

  9. Nate says:

    I’ve always been more of a Duran fan, but A-ha win this one easily.
    I always appreciate the inventiveness of D2, but miss the maturity that seems to only appear on every third album they release.
    It always occurs to me…..What does Andy Taylor think of this…? Does he just shake his head and say “Glad I’m home.”

  10. trash says:

    Well I’m a a huge fan of both.
    I favour Duran’s early albums over Ah-ha’s but I think Ah-ha’s recent releases have eclipsed Duran’s recent releases quite significantly.

    Duran still want to be pop while Ah-ha strive for something weightier (and often succeed).
    The two songs above are perfect examples – Ah-ha’s sounds like a James Bond theme tune, Duran’s sounds like disco-Chic (is that Nile Rogers on guitar?).

    Which do I prefer? Ah-ha’s is the better song but I prefer the catchiness of Duran’s (and I love Chic). However, I will probably still be listening to the Ah-ha song in a year’s time!

    • Neil Kelly says:

      It’s A-ha not Ah-ha. Always has been

      • trash says:

        Oops, sorry – I have a mental block with that. For some reason I always write it as Ah-ha (always have, always will :-).

        Anyway, you all know who I mean… ;-)

  11. Craig hedges says:

    I’ve just read that under the makeup will not be made available for download in the UK for a month!!! Where is the logic in that? I’d understand if it was a physical release but what is stopping them from allowing to be bought in this country. So far it is only available to buy in Norway.

  12. Jan says:

    A-ha sounds rather dull to me, although I agree with the remark that a more “basic” approach would benefit the song (just a guitar & piano). Duran Duran sounded rather uninspired to me as well, but it has some catchy bits… I choose Duran.

  13. colin says:

    I just love both tracks – SIMPLES!

  14. Nav Phokela says:

    I got caught up in a queue at HMV London in Dec. ’85 and quickly left when I realised that A-ha were signing autographs…talentless one hit wonders I thought. Within a couple of months, my girlfriend dragged me to one of their gigs in Birmingham. I’m a rocker at heart and wasn’t happy but went along…I’ve been a convert ever since. Have seen both Duran and A-ha a number of times over the years and will see them both again within the next 12 months. A-ha for me have always been the less pretentious and more about the music band for me…the current song does have too many strings overlaid on what would be a beautiful stripped back song, nevertheless I still prefer it to the current DD track

  15. Andreas says:

    Duran is typical first single release from the band, now with necessary name dropping guests. Like the verses, but chorus not doing it for me. Title track off the previous album was the worst track on it (no idea why they didn’t release more singles off that great album), so hoping a similar situation here. However, Duran have been known for their inconsistency . . .
    While Duran are aiming for a hit (at the possible expense of new found credibility), A-Ha are reminding us just how good a song writers they are. Not a hit single, but fans will certainly not be disappointed.

  16. mintoncard says:

    I enjoy both for different reasons (apples/oranges). But the art direction for a-ha is top-notch, per usual. I like that they went back to the original logo. The Duran artwork is trying too hard to be clever, and fails miserably.

  17. Neil Kelly says:

    I like both and will continue to listen to both. Can’t decide just yet what’s best TBH

  18. Orig80'saddict says:

    Love both, but hope A-ha has some synth sounds on their new cd.

  19. Mike C. says:

    Don’t forget New Order. 3 new albums to get!!!

    • Mark Jackson says:

      No they don’t count, they are not an albums band. There’s the new China Crisis out and that’s not being even being given a proper release. Stuff New Order! And OMD trounce them too. As do the best women of the 80s like Kim Wilde, Sandra and The Bangles!

  20. Paul Edwards says:

    For the person who asked- yes it’s Nile on guitar. I love both bands.

    The lyrics to Pressure Off are dreadful but if Warner Brothers get the promo right it could well be the single of the summer. It is extremely catchy

  21. Kiki says:

    Nice track! A-ha failed to chart for a long time, such as nearly all the old “coming from the 80’s” bands (PSB, Simple Minds, and so on) and this one will not make a hit, but it’s great.
    It’s a shame that there is no radio to play that kind of music nowaday (A FM radio that could say “New music for 30-40 Aged people”), it would help , I Think…
    I’m also, like many of you, a collector, so to me “selling” s***ing mp3 is not the solution, but the problem…

  22. thegreatelephant says:

    have always admired the front of the brummie chancers!

  23. DuranChic says:

    I love both songs. The hook of DD’s song catches you right away. It’s a typical Duran Duran song, a great chorus and it gets you up and going. It gives me great hope for their album. Their previous album was one of their best ever, even my kids love it and i’m hoping that quality continues with Paper Gods.
    The a-ha song is simply gorgeous. IT’s a ballad that reminds me of Crying In The Rain and Early In The Morning, two of my favorite songs. I have high hopes for their album.

  24. Conner says:

    I agree with your assessment. The sweeping beauty of the a-ha single is pretty amazing. Though not up to the standards of the best of their catalog, it still holds its own well. The Duran track falls a little flat for me, even with the help of the remarkable Nile Rodgers.

  25. Johnsy says:

    Harket sounds amazing! He singlehandedly can lift any track to a great single. It’s a lovely tune but this is 50% Harket’s voice, 30% the orchestral arrangements and 20% about the songwriting.

    Waaktaar must be greatful for the comeback…

  26. Nate says:

    Changing world…..

    Duran Duran and A-Ha have new singles, and so far, neither one of them has a video.

  27. Joao says:

    All the Aha fans.. or ahAh.. whatever.. this band is a joke as the name reflects!
    “So whaaayyy dont you use it?”.. come on.. Duran Duran is the best.
    AhaH songs are all the same.. melancolic.. no inovation at all.

    The new song of DD is not a slow.. wait for the new album, and you will see real slows.

  28. Grant Riggs says:

    A-ha, it’s a much more mature sounding song, long-lasting and just plain wonderful. Duran Duran’s effort is good but lacks something, something to keep me listening to it again & again, like I would Under The Makeup.

  29. Jopla2 says:

    It’s like comparing apples to oranges. The only connection is that both groups started roughly at the same time and are still making music. Personally, the new a-ha track puts me to sleep, while I think the new DD track is fine. Far from their best but that would be a tall order.

  30. William says:

    Think its a bit off to compare both bands songs to be honest, I’m glad to see both of them back and even a mediocre song from both is 100 times better than the dirge and shite that gets passed off as mainstream hits these days

  31. Justin Isbell says:

    Thanks for posting these. I’ve love both bands (all a-ha stuff) and (early and mid DD stuff…I buy but don’t tend to listen to the new stuff). Easy win for a-ha here but neither track is really a classic or even good single material. Competent and enjoyable album tracks both.

  32. Pete {in Australia} says:

    THANKS Paul, am signed to A-Ha website and nothing, no alerts, went over to the new site, and was unable to send a request for emails…………………. so i would not have known. Love both A-Ha and Duran Duran, but for me Morten’s vocals always get to me, and adding the strings, well……………………………………………. I like Duran Duran’s single but it is a grower, where as A-Ha fell in love with straight away! Was super excited that it was available on Itunes Australia, so already downloaded.

  33. Daran says:

    Well I ordered tickets last night for both Duran and A-ha at the O2 London. Looking forward to both. Perhaps we should have a pre-gig SDE meet-up drink :) Ok, I’ll get my coat….

  34. Renato says:

    To me, Pressure Off is a faceless pop song, and Under the Makeup is a tacky ballad which would fit a forgettable movie, probably in the credits. Both are OK, and both are kinda… vacuous. I’d rather listen to Pressure Off over Under the Makeup, though, since it’s not as boring.

  35. Mark Jackson says:

    For God’s sake, enough with the pointless mantra “their best is in the past”. Duran’s WORST album wasn released at their so-called “height”-the silly “Seven And The Ragged Tiger” and ‘Union Of The Snake’ is probably their worst single ever bless them, apart from their “covers moment” which again is still better than most people’s. Duran’s first career-best album (NOT the great “Rio” incidentally, world, was the Nile Rodger’s produced “Notorious” from 1986-the best year for the amount of top albums released by the best acts, and their last album equalled it, and the pathetically unappreciated and misunderstood “Red Carpet Massacre” was only just underneath it, and maybe not even that. “Pop Trash” was bloody great and there were only three members!

    Duran, unlike most acts, actually are more consistently better now than they ever have been-if this album is a slight comedown from the last three crackers (not including “Astronaut” which wasn’t so special), I’m fine with that, as they’ve been among the most consistent performers for ages. But then I’m not like most-I don’t hold them up to ridiculous claims and then gets disappointed and silly if the record doesn’t kill me with the first listen, and because I don’t, Duran, unlike others, continue to impress. I loved the very impressive “RCM” from the getgo, but then I’ve always preferred the long-term ideal of Duran-experimental, different, progressive but always themselves. The time-warp trio albums from ’81’-83 are only misguidedly held as untoppable because all 5 were together and every silly follower was screaming. That is just rude, short-sighted and pitifully wrong! Duran, like any act of quality, were long-term! And they prove it every day with each happening record. Really, no one would dare to say the first moments of the grossly overrated Depeche Mode, U2, Pet Shop Boys, New Order and Simple Minds, would they, yet it’s likely true for them, and I don’t even collect their albums out of choice! And, aside from New Order, none of these have ever made a comeback, cos they, like the vile Madonna, never go anywhere in the first place!

    But this is no slight to A-ha-I love them too, though Alphaville easily match them, but get ignored cos they’re German, just like Sandra is! And like Duran, A-ha’s best stuff has been since their comeback-their 2000 album, their excellent “Lifelines” and “Foot Of The Mountain” are all career-bests in the way they didn’t achieve with their good past ones, though the internationally recognised first album “Hunting High And Low” is given way too much peerage for the stuff that’s actually on it-where, unusually for A-ha the best things were the singles from it, but that doesn’t matter, they were just starting, but other people had better starts, but then again, did they last!? Likely not.

    I support both groups and actually comparing them is perfect-their both quality, unlike the ridiculous Spamhead Ballet or other nonsense. As for the actual author here saying patronisingly “it’s hardly Blur vs Oasis” (who?)-no it isn’t! We’re talking 80s quality artist here, not 90s stupid tuneless guitar spangling Beatles rip-offs with tone-deaf singers saying nothing at all in a horrible drone with egos the size of Madonna’s, but then again, as an oasis is a fertile desert area where water rises and a blur is something unclear that cannot be seen clearly, heard or even remembered, I cannot see where he’s going. What next? Spears against Aguilera? Seeing as he’s already plummeted unimaginable depths!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      The Blur v Oasis comment was a knowing and somewhat pithy acknowledgement that while I and many friends here are interested in this subject matter (Duran Duran, a-ha, and perhaps Duran ‘versus’ a-ha), the wider world DOESN’T CARE. It has become a niche interest, a bit like buying physical product :) Unlike back in the days of the ‘battle of Britpop’ or whatever it was called. Blur v Oasis was on News at Ten for heaven’s sake. It was a really big deal and everyone – not just music fans – was discussing it. The comment was nothing to do with the relative merits of 80s pop against Britpop or whether Blur are/were ‘better’ than a-ha. As a subject matter that is both ludicrous and pointless.

  36. Daran says:

    You sound a tad angry Mark. I think most people would take your post a bit more seriously if you had not given that list of world class bands YOU think are overrated. As it is you just come across as a DD fanboy.

  37. Julian H says:

    Surprisingly enough, “Pressure Off” has gone into radio rotation here in Germany!

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