“Voyage,” ABBA (Capitol Records)
A bouncy, synthy beat bridges the decades and brings ABBA into the present.
“You look bewildered,” Agnetha Fältskog sings above the retro rhythm, “and you wonder why I’m here today.”
ABBA is back with its first album since 1981. While skeptics might ask why, the four Scandinavian septuagenarians decided why not, and “Voyage” does nothing to tarnish their legacy as global hitmakers.
The highlight, “Just a Notion,” comes midway through the 10-song set. A backbeat kicks in, followed by saxophones. The singers leap to a higher register, and pounding piano chords help the arrangement bloom. Sugar rush!
Alas, that brisk tempo is an outlier. Like most of us whose heyday was in the 1970s, ABBA has slowed down.
Ballads predominate on “Voyage,” and the mood is mostly melancholy as Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad sing about relationships, Christmas, freedom and a bee. There are more tunes built for Broadway than for Eurovision, and the entire album contains fewer hooks than 2½ minutes of “Waterloo.”
Even so, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus remain remarkable craftsmen as composers and arrangers, and the vocals of Lyngstad and Fältskog – now pitched lower – still blend beautifully. After more than 40 years of silence, it’s nice to hear.