Monday, May 28, 2007

You Should Never Be Ashamed

ABBA - The Visitors

I’m properly hacked off with this whole ‘Guilty Pleasures’ thing. I’ve been stewing on it for a while now, and have finally come to the conclusion that it’s all rather patronising. It’s just a way for people who are completely affected by current trends and dictated to by London magazine editor’s perceptions of cool, to enjoy music that is perceived to be naff without fear of being sneered at by their peer group. OK, so it’s not really worth taking too seriously, and does seem to have morphed into an excuse for people to dress up and sing along to Toto songs, but I dislike the foundations on which it is built. You should never have to feel ashamed about the music you love. It all smacks a bit of snobbery. It’s only a guilty pleasure if you operate in circles where people will laugh at you if you confess a love of Dire Straits. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’m finding myself less and less bothered by what other people think about me and the things I’m into (yes, Dire Straits – but more on that another time). So, I want you all to know that I am posting this ABBA track without even the merest flicker of irony. I’m posting it because it is an absolutely incredible song and I love ABBA. I got into ABBA when I was a very small boy and my brother used to sing “Baggy Mango!” along to ‘Fernando’. There’s not a lot not to like about ABBA when you’re about 6 years old. Catchy sing-along pop songs aside, Benny looked a bit like my Dad. Plus, I think I also liked the fact that they were romantically paired off – it made them seem like my surrogate family. Finally, even aged 6, I had the hots for Agnetha.

‘The Visitors’ was the title track of their eighth and final studio album. The album was hammered by the critics at the time, but generally believed to be their finest by the majority of their hardcore fans. I don’t really know enough about ABBA’s album career to make a sound judgement (it was all about the soundtrack to ‘ABBA: The Movie’ for me), but I do know that me and my brother absolutely adored ‘The Visitors’, so much so that I can’t even recall any of the other songs on the album. ‘The Visitors’ is either about alien abduction or a descent into madness through schizophrenia or maybe both, but the official line is that it is a protest against the mistreatment of political dissidents in the Soviet Union. Ummm, OK then. The track itself opens with a psychedelic coda, with backward guitars, atmospheric chords, and a haunting vocal that raises the neck hairs. There’s also a sound a bit like a Game Boy being turned on and off. This intro always reminds me of the Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ for some reason. From here, it busts out into a double tracked synth-heavy romp that sounds incredible when played insanely loud. If you aren’t triumphantly pumping your fists during this segment, it’s probably because you have no arms. There’s a parping medieval trumpet melody later on that sounds good enough to announce the arrival of the King of England at a huge banquet. It’s nearly 6 minutes long, but worth every single second, even if it did mark the demise of ABBA as a creative entity.

Buy the remastered edition of 'The Visitors' from Amazon
Official ABBA website
ABBA at Wikipedia
Massive on-line ABBA resource