ABBA get serious

Abba ABBA will always conjure up horrifying images of awful wedding receptions, sweaty nights at G.A.Y and pissed girls from the finance department getting down to Dancing Queen at the office Christmas party, but Here at PopJunkie we love ABBA for their melancholy final album, The Visitors. Haunted by the spectre of romantic failure – the band members’ marriages had broken up – 1981’s The Visitors is a sumptuous collection of edgy synth pop noir.

The remastered version, with three extra tracks, contains The Day Before You Came ( later to be covered by Blancmange) – the best moment in ABBA’s vast canon of work. This moving song is a haunting tale of a single woman’s day-to-day life, up until the arrival of a new lover in her life. With its ghostly choral effects, minor chords and electro keyboard sounds, it’s a truly moving experience.

Bizarrely, the droning title track manages to combine the lyrical theme of Soviet dissidents with a sound that’s often reminiscent of late period Beatles. The end result is a psychedelic disco track that deals with mental breakdown – honestly. Head Over Heels is a classic ABBA pop tune with an irresistible chorus and shimmering synths, while When All Is Said Is Done ("Both of us can feel the autumn chill,") and the reggae-tinged One Of Us (“One of us is crying – one of us is lying,") are quite possibly two of the finest breakup songs ever written.

The album’s strangest moment is the ethereal Like An Angel Passing Through My Room. Thanks to its music box melody, soaring vocals and oboe accompaniment, it’s a genuinely spine-tingling experience that’s on a par with Radiohead’s No Surprises. Forget any notions you may have of playing ABBA songs at your wedding reception. Wait until the divorce and then you can sob your heart out to The Visitors instead.

ABBA – The Visitors (Polydor) 1981

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4 Responses to “ABBA get serious”

  1. johnny Says:

    Beautifully done. “The Visitors” is a treasure, for sure.

  2. Tonya Says:

    I agree with Johnny. As well as having one of the first digital studios ever, (even Led Zeppelin recorded there!) every album was a technical tour de force, thanks to engineer supremo Micheal B. Tretlow. If you could somehow deconstruct an Abba track into a million pieces, the only way to reconstruct it would be exactly the way it was assembled in the first place. Pure pop genius, even to this day.

  3. D.B. PARKES Says:

    I ALWAYS EQUATE THE TITLE TRACK OF THIS ALBUM WITH THE ARTY END OF POST PUNK. I FIRST HEARD IT ON THE B-SIDE OF “HEAD OVER HEELS”, BACK IN THE DAYS WHEN ABBA WERE A GUILTY PLEASURE BEST HIDDEN FROM TOUR “COOL” INDIE COHORTS, AND PRIOR TO THE THEFT OF THEIR ENTIRE LEGACY BY THE UNIMAGINATIVE POST EIGHTIES “CAMP” COGNESENTI.GRAHAM NORTON ET AL …KISS MY ARSE!!! (WITH IRONY IF YOU MUST)
    AND AS FOR “THE DAY BEFORE YOU CAME”…IT’S LIKE KRAFTWERK IF THEY DARED HAVE BODILY FUNCTIONS OR EMOTIONS…..

  4. Billy G. Says:

    The Visitors was a big shock when I first heard it in 1981. I was expecting another upbeat album of sweet pop, but here the serious side Benny & Bjorn hinted at as songwriters with “Knowing Me Knowing You” and “The Winner Takes it all” finally overtakes the bubblegum side for almost an whole album.

    The Vistiors got savaged by American critics back then but im glad curious fans have rediscovered this album and gave them credit for maturing musically and creating this incredible send off album for the best Europop group of the 70’s to early 80’s.

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