ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus is not just the co-songwriter of some of the most impeccable, glorious songs in pop history, he’s also always had a very astute sense of how they’ve been received.

Abba Voulez-Vous

“For the main part of the group’s lifespan,” he noted in an interview, a few years ago, “the critics despised us.”

It wasn’t just critics. Throughout the 1970s, most rockers, traditional and punk alike, disdained ABBA as makers of trite, superficial and essentially shallow chart-pop. These people had bricks for ears.

Within their God-given, glossy melodies and force-of-nature, forensic harmonies, ABBA told closely observed, emotionally implicated tales of love and the damage that it does. It was certainly true of Voulez-Vous, their 1979 sixth studio album, which now gets a 40th anniversary reissue on 2LP half-speed mastered vinyl.

The Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever had boogied disco back on to the musical agenda, a development that ABBA obviously loved: the title track and Summer Night City both belonged firmly on the dancefloor. Lyrically, though, it was a very different matter.

Björn and Agnetha had recently divorced and the pain of separation ate away at the album. Voulez-Vous described lonely singles going through the motions of pulling in clubs. Angel Eyes damned the charms of a former lover. Beneath its jaunty melody, Chiquitita consoled a lost, broken soul ‘enchained by your own sorrow’.

It was the first ABBA album since 1973 debut Ring Ring not to spawn a No.1, yet four singles from it made the top four. Also available now is Voulez-Vous – The Singles Coloured Vinyl Box of seven 7″ singles, with non-album track Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) thrown in.

Best, though, to go straight to this sheer, wondrous album. 

10/10

Ian Gittins

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