Who’d have thought that one of the most influential pop groups of all time would be releasing their first new album together a full 40 years after their 70s purple patch fizzled out with 1981’s The Visitors? I’d kind of thought it’d never happen, so as a huge ABBA fan myself I could scarcely be more pleased. And even if I can’t shake the feeling that none of the new songs quite scale the heights of their back-catalogue, this one has plenty of nostalgia value to be getting on with in the meantime: anthemic harmonies from ‘Thank You For The Music’ or ‘Happy New Year’, some ‘Chiquitita’ rhythmic background vocals, a splash of ‘Fernando’ snare roll, the undimmed magnificence of the Swedish accents…
Now I often associate ABBA songs with their interesting phrase-structure antics, so I was a little surprised to find eight-bar phrases thoughout, except for the three instances of that Elgar-esque melody (at 0:00, 3:21, and 4:48), each of which only takes half as long. They clearly can’t resist a bit of metric wrong-footing, though, because there are a half-dozen moments in the song where the final beat of a three/four bar is stressed to the point where it feels like a new bar’s downbeat instead, thereby effectively transforming a pair of three/four bars into a two/four bar followed by a four/four bar. You can hear this first under the word “on” at 0:21, then in similar situations at 0:40 (“hard”), 1:18 (“feel”), 1:37 (“reach”), 2:50 (“down”), and 4:40 (“down”).
And while we’re on the subject of fun rhythmic tricks, check out the reprise of the line “do I have it in me” during the final chorus section. You see, this phrase has appeared four times already (at 0:47, 1:44, 3:01, and 3:21), and so far the word “do” has always been placed on beat three, with the word “in” on the following downbeat. At 4:15, however, we get the words “do” and “in” on beats two and three respectively instead – a move, incidentally, that’s already been subtly pre-echoed in the piccolo/glockspiel response melody at 3:03.
Oh, and one little mixing query. Why is that tambourine so central and upfront in the mix? It doesn’t really make sense to me as a depth-perspective decision, because it therefore seems like it’s positioned a good few steps in front of the band, and indeed the vocals – almost like a concerto soloist! And the shaker’s not much better on the other simultaneously-released single, ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’. It just feels a bit distracting somehow, and I’d have preferred it at least panned a little off-centre, perhaps with a touch of ambience reverb or something to tuck it better into the mix texture.