I've always had a problem with ABBA, three years ago I started a blog post that I never finished trying to explain what the problem was... but found it too hard to get across my point without sounding like some bitter old metalhead who can't be doing with any of this "pop" music malarkey. But now, having chosen to listen to The Visitors I guess I need to try again.
Here's what I wrote three years ago...
Now I don’t really have a problem with ABBA's music, my problem with ABBA is the perception that they were more than that, that they were special when pop needed special. They really weren't... they were a band that made pop music - some of it very fine, some of it average, and some of it pretty dire. But lots of bands have done that, even bands I have loved, but I’d not dare to suggest they were anything more than what they were.
The Visitors is actually a much better album than I'd realised, maybe because of just how downbeat it is (lyrically), there are some astonishingly miserable songs on it - this from The Visitors (Cracking Up), which opens the album, sets the tone:
These walls have witnessed all the anguish of humiliation, and seen the hope of freedom glow in shining faces,
And now they've come to take me, come to break me,
And yet it isn't unexpected, I have been waiting for these visitors.
They must know by now I'm in here trembling, in a terror evergrowing
... and even the song that I always found quite laughable as a single seemed to work so much better when its misery is put in the context of the album:
In The Visitors, ABBA made an album that deserves to be listened to without the expectations that their pop credentials put on it - it's almost as if the "greatest pop band" label has rather hidden what else that they were capable of.
As if it wasn't miserable enough the version of the album I downloaded from Spotify added The Day Before You Came as a bonus track
I'd put forward T. Rex and Blondie as two bands with at least an equal claim to the "greatest pop band" label.
I found it very hard to write this post without making it seem like I consider "pop" as some sort of low form of art, as if I were using the term as an insult. I love, and have always loved pop music.