Posted by Sam Murray.
Reviewed on 13th November 2012.
When people think of ABBA they conjure up images of Eurovision camp or perhaps the musical 'Mamma Mia' and the accompanying film, something that kind of irritated me for a while.
I also had the wonderful experience of an ABBA tribute act for my Year 11 leavers' ball in which there were solo's from "sexy sexy Bjorn" as the tribute Bjorn constantly referred himself as. For the past couple of years two friends of mine have been trying to convince me that ABBA are just on the greatest bands on the planet ; the main culprit being a friend who is known by the moniker 'The Professor' due to his vast intellect of most things. He has always held the Swedish four-piece in high regard rolling off albums and songs as important to the development of popular music whilst I nodded and smiled and admittedly felt a little bored until now. The opportunity to review an ABBA album is a curious task; I have encountered countless hits collections but I've always been one for a carefully crafted Album. ABBA's eponymous album has the hits 'Mamma Mia' and 'SOS' but is so much more, and upon listening I think The Professor might just be right.
The hits on the album are the symbols of the powerful songwriting craft of Benny and Bjorn. 'SOS' has recently become one of my favourite ABBA songs. From its balladic verses that are infused with a raw passion and emotion building up with synths to that chorus filled with awesome harmonies and unison and heavy handed guitars with a light acoustic. The textures are just spot on. Then there is the synth middle 8 that has an almost baroque ascending phrase that impresses every music geek going. A massive tune that I think I'm kind of addicted to.
Mamma Mia, the song that sparked that music and that atrocious film, when performed by ABBA isn't actually that bad. It has an easily memorable chorus and the instrumentation is perfect with the infamous piano and xylophone riff and a guitar answering the vocal melody with ease. This is an example of Benny and Bjorn using riffs to create simply awesome choruses.
'Hey Hey Helen' is track with some real glam vibes that could sit nicely with Bowie. The guitars are pretty brutal for an ABBA song with such dry sounding drums that punctuated the sheer 'tude this tune has. The song has a pretty awesome clavinet breakdown and I did admittedly have to check if it was still ABBA as the track does not fit the stereotype.
'Tropical Loveland' features that European staple of an accordion playing over a reggae-kinked drum beat. Also there is use of the xylophone that gives this tune a pretty happy feel. It does feel a bit odd following on from 'Hey Hey Helen' but it just shows how diverse Benny and Bjorn are as songwriters.
So what is the secret to writing like Benny and Bjorn? One seems to be to have a great intro, although 'Man in the Middle' had an intro that sounds like a soft porn score. 'Mamma Mia', 'Bam a Boomerang' and 'Crazy World' all have great intros that set up the song nicely. Then there is the killer riff, which of course made 'Mamma Mia' and 'SOS' successful. Then there are the helplessly addictive choruses, I mean who can't enjoy the chorus 'Bang a boom boomer boomerang is love'? If you don't you're probably a killjoy. Then to end with is the epic instrumentation including pianos, guitars, synths, xylophones and of course the 4 vocals. These ingredients may seem incredibly simple but writing a good riff and chorus is pretty darn hard.
So the Professor is right, ABBA are pretty important to pop music. Benny and Bjorn have shown the world a lesson in writing great simple tracks that are somewhat timeless. This album is an audio treat to the ears. I would recommend trying it to convert yourself onto ABBA showing that they is more than the ABBA Gold collection your parents keep in the car or your sister or brother's copy of Mamma Mia that they try to convince you is the best thing since 'We Will Rock You'. Give Benny and Bjorn the time of day and you'll finally get what all the fuss is about.
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On 16th November 2012 at 07:45 Anonymous 42720
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