ABBA’s ninth studio album - and their first release in 40 years - is finally here.
To say expectations are high would be somewhat of an understatement. But after four decades of waiting (well not really waiting, because no one - not even ABBA themselves - expected to release a brand new studio album), have they delivered?
The reviews are in, and they’re a decidedly mixed bunch...
“The glamour promised by this album’s two terrific singles goes horribly unfulfilled.... Don’t Shut Me Down’s impact was unexpected and exciting and it became Abba’s first Top 10 hit since 1981, charging Voyage with the promise of forward motion and glamour – qualities that felt wildly attractive in our messy, mid-Covid times. And so it is hard to reckon with the disappointment that Abba’s ninth album delivers, as it prefers to languish in often bafflingly retrograde settings.”
“They’ve owned the traumas and triumphs of their past with admirable honesty on Voyage. It’s a terrific, family-friendly smorgasbord of a record that delivers all the classic ABBA flavours. I think we can let them go now.”
“The lyrics retain an odd Swedish-to-English formality, which was perhaps always part of Abba’s off-kilter appeal, although the downbeat subject matter can be an awkward fit with the tone of triumphant return. It may just be an odd effect of ex-husbands writing for ex-wives, but the women in these songs are constantly apologising for unreasonable behaviour and letting their saintly partners down.”
“Their new record gives us — bar some septuagenarian tweaks, including at least three songs about animals — the Swedes we know and love. Or rather pretended to hate for ages and admitted to loving around 2002. Voyage is a reassuringly familiar blend of clear-eyed sentiment, outrageous musicality and utter indifference to fashion. Like much of Abba’s back catalogue, these songs can sound naff on first listen, yet you’re pulled in by Benny Andersson’s melodic oomph.”
“The bad news is that there’s a bunch of utter schlock here… Can Be That Woman, a lead-footed ballad that uses a dog as a focus for a troubled relationship; Keep An Eye On Dan, which sounds like a Boney M B-side; Bumble Bee, a fluffy throwaway that appears to exist solely to recreate those pipes from Fernando… If taken on songs alone, Voyage should have been a four-track EP. Then we could have said thank you for the music and meant it.”
“There’s no embarrassing attempt to get up to date with the bops the kids are into these days, a compliment to their integrity. Instead of chasing trends, they stick to the classic sound they perfected years ago, the sound that has kept influencing modern pop ever since. As they once sang, the history book on the shelf is always repeating itself.”
“They have made an album that sounds reassuringly like ABBA, albeit a more sedate ABBA than you probably remember. The disco-tinged single Don’t Shut Me Down and a galloping banger called No Doubt About It take the album into reasonably upbeat territory, but nothing here will fill dance floors like Voulez Vous or Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)... There are some bumpy moments along the way, but this ‘Voyage’ is a nostalgia trip worth taking.”
“Returning with their first new album in 40 years, the Swedish pop titans attempt the seemingly impossible: balancing the lure of nostalgia with the pull of the present day. Amazingly, they pull it off.”
“It’s hard to envisage anything here elbowing its way onto a future edition of the Gold album. Of course it’s wonderful, miraculous even, to see and hear them again, but these aren’t the songs people will clamour for when those concerts begin.”