Abba Voyage Available now
Albert Hall, Manchester Touring until Friday
The latest news from the cutting edge of pop is that there’s a new album from AbbaIt is. Just 40 years ago, the clocks went back. A cassette copy can be purchased. It’s the longest gap ever left between albums by a big name.
The band who insisted they would never reunite have done just that, and now, in another U-turn, they’re saying this is really the end. What’s Swedish for ‘never say never again’?
While we Britons lap up almost everything Abba throw at us – the musical, the movies, the 2022 Abbatar extravaganza – we’re not mad about their studio albums.
Abba (above), who has never made their music popular, isn’t about to. They’re still making measured adult pop, built on Benny Andersson’s serene melodies.
Only five of the original LPs were awarded platinum discs, while Abba Gold’s compilation has 18.
Voyage It will eventually sell after it has received 100,000 pre-orders. But the singles from it haven’t been big hits, because times have changed.
In Abba’s heyday the chart was a broad church, welcoming everyone from the Sex Pistols to David Soul, whereas now it’s a youth club. Abba must sing alongside Stormzy to be a No. 1 singer today. Instead they’ve taken up where they left off.
This album is brief, to the point and quite impervious to anything that has happened in the past 40 years – except the climate crisis, which crops up in Bumble Bee, possibly the mildest protest song ever recorded.
Abba has never made their music trendy. They’re still making measured adult pop, built on Benny Andersson’s serene melodies. You can hear some of the chord changes coming a mile off, but you don’t mind because they’re so Abba.
It is more difficult to write lyrics. Last time Björn Ulvaeus was writing for Abba, they were all divorcing each other, which added another dimension, a gorgeous sorrow.
Now they’re all friends again, he’s writing about being in the garden, or the park, or asleep on the sofa with the dog. Pet sounds!
You feel for Agnetha Fältskog as she sings lines written by her former husband. While most people find it annoying when someone puts words in our mouths, Agnetha, like my wife, manages to do so gracefully. She and Frida Lyngstad are a formidable duo on vocals.
A few faux moves are there. The album’s name is confusing and irrelevant (there are no voyages in the lyrics). Little Things is the Christmas song. No Doubt About It is the rock track.
But Abba instantly redeem themselves with Ode To Freedom, an anthem as lovely as anything they’ve recorded. It’s easily enough good.
Jarvis CockerHe knows his identity like Abba. The man is totally himself in a velvet suit and moving as a marionette. Although his solo material is a bit sparse and Common People are not available, the performance of him is captivating.