Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Cassette experiment day 96 - ABBA 'Voulez-vous'

There are times when I’ve been known to say things just to be controversial and to see what reaction will follow.
I may have done so in my last post when I suggested that The Beastie Boys’ ‘Licensed to ill’ is one of the very few albums that could be described as truly game-changing. I assume that you’re not quite sure whether the aforementioned is a serious or a flippant statement. I’ll be entirely honest with you – I’m not quite sure myself.
I am though going to say something that you may consider to be equally flippant, but is, in fact, deadly serious. One of the ten best pop songs ever recorded resides, largely unrecognised, as an album track on our cassette of the day, ABBA’s ‘Voulez-vous’. The tune I’m talking about wasn’t even released as a single (unless you’re reading this in Mexico or Argentina) but it gives me goose-bumps every single time I hear it.
In 1979 ABBA were on top of their game – world famous but not yet world weary, they looked around at the successful musical genres of the day, New Wave (or Post-punk as it seems to be increasingly called nowadays) and Disco. Unsurprisingly they decided against the former and embraced the latter, releasing an album of classic disco flavoured pop music that took on the world and won.
The album opens with the track that I described earlier, namely ‘As good as new’, which opens dramatically with strings, then impressively negotiates the higher echelons of pure pop towards one of the most satisfying pop song conclusions ever committed to vinyl (or in this case, tape). It doesn’t just end like most pop songs do (i.e. when it’s run out of steam), it starts as if it knows how the end will happen, and never loses sight of the conclusion all the way through – it’s as if the whole song is designed purely to justify the magnificent ending.
‘Voulez-vous’, ‘I have a dream’, ‘Angel eyes’ and ‘Chiquitita’ are all massively familiar tunes, all upbeat in their own individual ways, with ‘Chiquitita’ nodding more than just its cap in the direction of ‘Those were the days’ by another Eurovision favourite, Mary Hopkin.
‘Does your mother know’ a rocker (or ABBA’s equivalent of a rocker) is sung by Bjorn and is about a young girl who decides to pursue the perennially grinning singer. Bjorn, in turn, commendably rebuffs her advances, but not until he’s put the young girl down just a little bit. Not a particularly savoury tale when broken down to its constituent parts. Presumably Bjorn takes the vocal lead on this one because Agnetha felt a bit queasy about the subject matter. Incidentally, Ash recorded a scorching version of this tune.
So ABBA’s last happy album, and, as long as you’re looking for shallow pop classics (a massive compliment in my book) and not tunes with the emotional depth of, say, ‘Super Trouper’ or ‘The day before you came’ then you may well consider this to be ABBA’s best album.
I do. I do. I do. I do. I do.
Label – Epic
Year – 1979
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