Onto the third studio album by ABBA now, following the rush-released “Waterloo”, it’s a chance to finally capitalise on their success at Eurovision the previous year. Though it suffers from some really clunky moments, it’s got some very strong moments too, among the first of their really big hits too (“Waterloo” aside).
(originally posted March 2011)
09 Mamma Mia – Well I’ve had a bit of a turnaround on this one in the last few weeks. Terminally overexposed and obviously the title track from the hugely successful play and movie, I suppose I’ve warmed to it a bit. I doubt it will ever be one my favourites but I’ve at least come around to how well-crafted a pop song it is, and started enjoying it quite a lot. Obviously it’s possibly THE big hitter from this album, and I now finally see why.
07 Hey Hey Helen – Love the beat to this, really reminds me of something quite recent but I can’t work out what. The song itself isn’t QUITE to my tastes, a bit rockier and the harmonies aren’t as nice as MM. I gather Helen has dumped the father of her kids and is dealing with being the sole provider. I find the tone a little sneery despite the lyrics sometimes saying otherwise, it’s quite an odd song really. It’s grown on me.
07 Tropical Loveland – God I’m glad this picks up soon. Another stark reminder that we are deep in the 70s still, with a reggae-lite style to this song. The chorus is quite catchy but it’s not really up their with the best. Odd choice of words too, it makes me think she’s singing about her vagina or something (I don’t know why you’d refer to it like that though).
10 S.O.S. – After going off the boil, the album is firmly back on track with one of my favourite ABBA tracks. I love how there are so many fragments of melodies that just segue into each other harmoniously, it’s got so much depth to it. I love the opening vocals and the chorus “So when you’re near me DARLING can’t you hear me S.O.S” I’ll probably take to my grave . There’s nothing about this song I don’t like, so how could I not give it a 10?
05 Man in the middle – Heh .. well you can’t win them all, and they certainly haven’t here. I get the impression that this one is a (rather limp) attack on a particular unnamed person. I’m not up on ABBA history so I don’t know who that might be. But I guess they’ve had issues with slimy management in the past. Either way the song isn’t really up to much, the chorus is like a limp lettuce with clunky lyrics and less venom than an earthworm.
09 Bang-a-boomerang – And BACK up we go. I presume this was a minor hit somewhere, but I didn’t really know about it at all before now. The girls on vocals too which always seems to help me. Love the intro and that chorus is nonsensical but LAVISH and wonderful. I wonder if in a different world this would have done the same business as Waterloo had in Eurovision? It’s certainly got that sort of feel to it, and I can’t believe that’s not at least slightly intentional. Anyway LOVE IT.
10 I do I do I do I do I do – Instantly it’s Muriel’s Wedding, is it like that for everyone else? I can’t help but love this, it’s like some terrible drunken karaoke hen night. Somehow that’s a POSITIVE note, the totally hopeless OTT outpouring of desire is very infectious and I have to smile every time.
06 Rock Me – Back into another tailspin we go, with another godawful din courtesy of the boys. I really don’t subscribe to this glam rock sound, and this doesn’t do much to change my mind, it’s got nice moments but they are fleeting and don’t make up for the rest. Thought experiment though: Swap the glam rock for synths, swap the vocals for pre-pubescent, and swap the obvious sex references about “rocking” with obvious sex references about “vibrating” and don’t you get S Club 8’s Sundown? It’s the same chorus isn’t it?
10 Intermezzo No.1 – Don’t ask me why but this is a real highlight for me on this album, I really can’t get enough of it. There’s some vaguely familiar classical piece below this, I worked out that much. But it’s done in the fabulously glitzy form of the title credits for some lavish 70s telethon or variety show. As an instrumental that’s about all I can really comment about but it’s just so wonderfully unexpected and I love it! Punchy, orchestral, fabulous. That outro is just incredible.
08 I’ve been waiting for you – Ballad time, it’s not a particularly pioneering ballad it has to be said, but the vocals are lush and the backing paints a lovely fuzzy backdrop for this that makes it a pleasure to listen to.
07 So Long – See ya! Well it’s back to glam rock but it’s at least a good effort. Sounds a bit pissed off but over it, which is a nice tone for the song, not too heavy. I love the “ooo-waaa-ooo money money” backing vocals in places, again gives me a big smile when I pick up on it. Not exactly my cup of tea but certainly a step in the right direction after things like Rock Me.
So that’s that. Only when I’m writing this that I realise just how many songs there are that I’m not that keen on, but it’s worth it for the wealth of great tracks that we also get. I’m spotting probably the least surprising trend ever in that I tend to prefer the female-vocalled songs, though that seems to be the trend in general, the bulk of ABBA’s big hits are like that aren’t they? So a VAST improvement on Waterloo, and I’m told that it gets even BETTER. An album like this but without the drek will surely be FORMIDABLE. But we will see!
Keepers for the iPod: Mamma Mia, S.O.S., Bang-a-boomerang, I do I do I do I do I do, Intermezzo No.1, I’ve been waiting for you