If you are a pop kid of a certain age, the news that ABBA may be about to reform for a one-off gig will have been greeted with a snort of derision.
It’s fair to say that, in the last couple of decades, ABBA’s legacy has not so much suffered as been pelted with manure and fed into a woodchipper, as they have been claimed variously by awful cover bands, composers of equally awful West End musicals, shrieking karaoke parties and, worst of all, the they’re-so-bad-they’re-good ironicists guffawing at the Swedes’ shimmering flares (if you happen to know anyone who thinks that ‘Dancing Queen’, at its heart an outsider anthem, is in any way amusing, de-friend them immediately).
Well, allow me to give a few reasons why Abba are, to put not too fine a point on it, fucking brilliant.
Any fule kno that songs like ‘SOS’, ‘Take A Chance On Me’ and ‘Dancing Queen’ are classics in the pop pantheon – yes they are – and the fact that they were essayed by four grinning Swedes in regrettable pants-suits and stack heels does not diminish this one iota – indeed, as the music journalist Taylor Parkes pointed out in a 1995 essay on the band, that such tragedy was being wrought by grinning people in spandex rather than military grey longcoats simply served to make the music even more fascinating.
The group’s last hurrah, ‘The Visitors’, is a firm rebuttal to anyone who clings to the notion that ABBA were jolly Scando-buffoons, a divorce album given an extra arctic chill by the fact that it was being driven by actual divorce and there were two of them happening in rapid succession.
The single from the album, ‘One Of Us’, is a horribly raw “I’m doing fine without you baby” rejoinder from the men to the ladies – how would you feel if your divorcing partner handed you lyrics like “One of us is crying/one of us is lying/in a lonely bed/staring at the ceiling/wishing she was somewhere else instead” to sing? – and the last, funereal track on the band’s last album, ‘Like An Angel Passing Through My Room’, is chest-knottingly painful to listen to, the sound of four people, or two women at the very least, who know that that, to all intents and purposes, is emphatically it.
It’s somehow fitting that ABBA should re-emerge into a world where improbably gut-wrenching Swedish flash-pop – Robyn, Kleerup, Fever Ray and The Knife – is in fine fettle. ABBA, though, are the high watermark of that particular fjord. Pray that they do reform, if only for one gig – 30 years’ wait is more than enough.