The voyage continues
10 November 2021-
Incredibly, ABBA are back after a 41-year hiatus. More incredibly, it doesn't show all that much: their new album acts as a beautiful generational bridge...
This is a day we thought we’d never see: the author of these lines was born on the very year ABBA released their last album. The year was 1981 (the author of these lines is admittedly old), the album was The Visitors, featuring their now classic ballad “One Of Us”. We thought that would be the end of it: both couples forming ABBA had separated and the quartet stated in no uncertain terms that that that was that.
And it was true for several decades. Given the sheer magnitude of the band’s success, there were still regular queries. Following their record-breaking decade of hit making, the 1992 release of best off album ABBA Gold only reignited the fire. But Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid (check those initials) always answered “no” to any vague suggestion of ever reuniting. And it also looked less likely with time: each artist embarked on their own projects while their respective personal lives definitely drove them further apart from one another.
Then something strange happened in the 2010’s: ABBA were seen performing together again. Even though they said that would never happen. In 2018, they even announced that 2 new songs had been recorded, “I Still Have Faith In You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” — not coincidentally the first double A-side single to come out earlier this year, introducing this historic new album. And now it’s here…
Truth be told, it is very hard to listen to Voyage without taking into account its unique context: created by a cult band following decades of (near) radio silence. Despite the tremendous excitement (and perhaps apprehension) one might feel in such circumstances, that listen turns out to be extremely satisfying. Granted, some of it has to do with sheer nostalgia: songs like “Just A Notion” or “Keep An Eye On Dan” take you straight back to 1982 (even if you weren’t there to witness it in the first place). The former having been first worked out back in 1978, it figures; but the latter is new, despite the fact that it sounds so terribly Studio 54-esque. That’s a compliment.
ABBA were known for crafting ballads that were about as powerful as their disco/dance tunes: this is even more obvious in 2021. Likely because they are older, you can feel the weight of wisdom and experience in many of the songs (and lyrics) here. Starting with lead single “I Can Have Faith In You”, which stands as a perfect blend of pop songwriting and soul-searching. Same goes for “Little Things”, which at times almost reminds the listener of Von Trapp-esque harmonies (also a compliment). And the symphonic closer “Ode To Freedom” acts as a testament of sorts for this album and the incredible overall contribution of the band that’s behind it.
Let us simply hope that this is the start of a new era rather than a timely conclusion…