The return of the Swedish super troupers has plenty of bittersweet erudition, plus a good dollop of mass-market cheese
Nearly 40 years after their break-up, Abba’s reunion album upholds the contradictory legacy of the very first Swedish pop powerhouse. Half of this record finds hatchet-burying divorcés Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus returning as titans of emotionally literate pop. There are songs here with a cinematographic grasp of gesture allied to countermelodies of aching prettiness, almost casually thrown away. In the very same breath, though, Voyage packs in a surfeit of hokey oompah and two Christmas tunes too many. The saccharine children’s choir on Little Things is an inevitability; cynically, Andersson and Ulvaeus probably wanted a slice of the never-ending fruited royalty pudding that comes with Christmas-themed songs.
In short, Voyage is an album that asks: “Which Abba are you – frothy or full-on?” as you hit the skip button. But you’ll be glad Abba made it. Both a monument to bittersweet pop erudition and a mass-market sop, it finds all four singers in strong voice, their effortless harmonies evidence of much water having flowed under Stockholm’s bridges, interpersonally speaking.