At this point in their career, ABBA were slowly falling apart, with both marriages in the band having come to an end. I think that’s why the songs on this album never really crossed over in the way that some of their happier hits had done, perhaps due to how ABBA are viewed now. It’s accepted that the songs have aged well, but their songs seem to be branded as camp classic more than anything, with their more introspective moments consigned to karaoke melodrama hell.
I guess it’s just what you make of it, if people are still enjoying ABBA then that’s great, it’s just a shame it didn’t do this album any favours. After the pop juggernaut of Super Trouper, this is a real change of pace. More experimental in some ways, certainly a sadder record, but with a few elements of the earlier ABBA material in there. Above all that, it does feel like a goodbye record, doesn’t it? Anyway, let’s just get on with it.
(originally posted June 2011)
07 The Visitors – Definitely a detour from their usual sound, a spooky intro with a few sparse effects. The distorted vocals even make me think of some eastern influences, a la Ray of Light. I don’t know. They get into more familiar territory about halfway through, some manic verse and finally a big hook to bring it all back together. I know a few people really like this but it doesn’t quite set me alight. Not quite sure why they are cracking up, or who the visitors are though.
08 Head over heels – God I love that weird plinky-plonky intro, never heard anything quite like that. A bit of Latin influence here, can I hear? I like the whole production, but it ends up a lot less interesting than the intro made me think, despite its return towards the end. It’s a lot more melody-driven than The Visitors, so that makes it easier for me to get into, but the chorus doesn’t really work for me (god, I hate this negativity so far).
09 When all is said and done – Well if I hadn’t picked up on it before, the divorce(s) certainly make an appearance here with a quite disarmingly upfront song about how nobody is to blame, but how it’s still totally devastating. The vocals are full of passion and emotion, it gives me goosebumps sometimes. Yet it’s still a great melodic song, from that warm intro to the quite light production that lets the vocals take the spotlight.
10 Soldiers – Love that beat from the start, and once everything else kicks in, it’s just got such a sad feel to it. I presume this is Cold War-related, my history isn’t good on this, so I’m not sure specifically what this is about. That chorus just kills me every time though. An interesting melody with harmonies that really stick in my mind. They almost sound upbeat, but obviously they aren’t. I feel a bit stupid even writing about this album as it’s clear to me that I don’t know a lot of the background info needed to really appreciate it.
08 I let the music speak – After that high point, I’m not quite sure this measures up. It’s an odd one, starting off as a pretty standard ballad but emerging as something more theatrical. There are some really interesting changes of mood in here, the synths for a few seconds before the second verse, the choir in the chorus, some more eastern influences for some fleeting seconds. It’s an intriguing song certainly, but after many listens I’m still not really sure what it IS.
10 One of us – Now, the one song I DID know, and the only real hit from the album. Despite coming dangerously close to reggae, this is just a dream to listen to. That choral intro, the lovely bridge leading onto a gorgeous chorus. Very simple melodically but very relatable, the harmonies are wonderful. Just filled with regret at relationship mistakes past, it’s a beautiful pleading track. That’s about all I need to say really. I’m sure Ace of Base were a fan of this one too…
09 Two for the price of one – Oh, time for the boys to have a go isn’t it? I can imagine this is quite a divisive track, especially given the serious tone of the rest of the album. I mean it’s a rather strange song about getting a multibuy offer on the dating pages of a newspaper. I don’t really know if it has any depth apart from being quite a sweet little story. The chorus is catchy as hell, even reminds me of Fleetwood Mack a bit. It’s just simple and just makes me love them really…
08 Slipping through my fingers – Some standard balladeering now, this time I guess it’s about losing someone slowly and how awful it feels for it to be so drawn-out. I think in this case it’s about a friend instead of a lover, but still has an impact. It does capture that feeling well though, and the production doesn’t ham it up too much. “I watch her go, with a surge of that well-known sadness, and I have to sit down for a while” :(.
07 Like an angel passing through my room – A sad one to finish, the ticking clock, the lullaby feel to the song, like it’s time to go to sleep now the fun is over. Not really sure what the angel is referring to, but it feels right for this to be the closing track, even if it only features one of them. Then the clock winds down, and it’s over…
So that’s that, the last studio album. A bit of a mixed bag for me, particularly off the back of the poptastic previous album. It has such an intriguing feel to it though, I almost feel that it’s a bit wasted on me though. It’s easy to throw around words like ‘mature’ and ‘complex’, and I guess they are all appropriate, but I think that does a bit of disservice to their earlier work. It’s just that in this case the album isn’t really going for hits, perhaps they already knew this was going to be the last one, which allowed them to be a bit freer in their output.
Special mention to that artwork too, very evocative of how I imagine the band to have been at that point. Still together, but lost in their own little worlds, not able to paper over the divides between them. What do I know about art or emotions anyway, I did maths at school.
Keepers for the iPod: Head over heels, When all is said and done, Soldiers, One of us, Two for the price of one, Slipping through my fingers: