I don’t like ABBA. They do not make the kind of music I like. But, to the extent I respect an ABBA album, it needs to be chock full of hooks – there are some ABBA albums where it’s just a non-stop onslaught of catchy songs, even outside of the singles – and/or it needs a little more sophistication – there are ABBA deep cuts more appropriately labeled “progressive pop”, which I nearly always prefer to the rest of the music.
Well, this album isn’t their strongest set of songs. There is a noticeable drop off between the hits and and many of the album tracks. Moreover, a couple of the album cuts are kind of execrable, particularly “Happy New Year”, which has to be on a short list of their worst songs ever. (That’s coming from someone who does not listen to ABBA, so take it with a grain of salt.) And there’s basically only one track on the record that deviates from their formula.
The arrangements are unnecessarily dense, as usual. But there not out of control, like some of the records of this era are. I find ABBA’s music over-arranged in general but I do feel like they do a more tasteful job of those arrangements than many. Relatively speaking of course. I can imagine a different version of this band with way fewer instruments that might actually be fun.
Mercifully this album is still stuck in the ’70s in terms of record production, so there is very little hint of the ’80s cliches that were starting to appear on pop records. Sure, there ’70s production cliches – a whole lot of them – but I can handle those a lot more than I can ’80s production cliches.
Certainly not one of their better albums. ABBA’s biggest strength is the catchiness of their songwriting and when that is not up to standard it’s hard to be nice.