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Abba - Voyage (Album Review)

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 Written by Jacob Brookman

For the Abba aficionados out there, news of a ninth album a full 40 years after their previous release will likely have brought joy, and a little trepidation. While the Swedish band’s catalogue of singles is jammed with solid gold, era-defining hits, their albums were often poor, with cringey ditties languishing among the treasure, stinking the place out with twee arrangements and dubious storylines. ‘Voyage’ is no different.

We open with the bombastic, musical theatre ballad I Still Have Faith In You—a grand yet candid overview of the story so far, addressing the issue of their capacity to still function as a band. The vocals are marvellous and the melody writing peerless, and yet there’s something wrong. Could those really be MIDI horns?

Bjorn, Benny, what the hell? This song is the curtain raiser for your first new record in two generations and the track’s production sounds like a music A-Level student’s computer coursework.

And that’s before we get to the children’s choir on Little Things, a clattering Christmas track that turns the clock back in lots of ways, very few of them good.

Despite its septuagenarian authors, there remains a naivete—maybe even lack of self-awareness—in Abba’s songs. Tonally, this is a real high-wire-act and on this record it frequently collapses into cheesy crimes against taste.

And yet the quality of the basic work, the music making, often covers for this. It's represented on the album's high point (by a country mile), the co-lead single Don’t Shut Me Down. It's classic Abba: joyous, intelligent, innovative pop music.

You cannot say that this album trashes the band’s legacy because, as we’ve already established, Abba’s records have always been a mixed bag. That said, one could reasonably hope that ‘Voyage’ had been better. Instead, this is a vexing hot mess: a sloppy, sentimental monologue with flashes of brilliance. It’s the drunk divorcee singing karaoke at a ski resort and somehow, implausibly, reminding you why you married them in the first place.



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