Abba believes in ancient visions of American teenagehood; they romanticize infatuation and stolen kisses... and, like their Spector-born predecessors, they possess the big voices and the big production know-how required to promote their fantasies and win audiences. Abba’s innocence, in fact, was never more conspicuous than during their appearance on Saturday Night and Wonderama. The artificiality of Frieda and Anna’s go-go boots and miniskirts looked bonkers compared to the cast’s usual routines.
In contrast, Abba’s Sunday morning stint on Wonderama (New York’s Kiddie Club) was a sugar coated delight of pre-pube choreography (gyrating forth the gummy bubble fans of the Wombles and Hudson Brothers with host Bob McAllister oohing and aahing at the female Abbas’ leggies). The difference here being that Abba survives only as alien rock ‘n’ roll force, contained in a time warp, rippling through the seventies.
Arrival, then, is the typical Abba album, complete as a collection of wholesome singles (designed for the younguns with pocket change who have not yet graduated to big bubba’s gullible level of rock sophistication) but incomplete as a total unit (featuring the filler between the hits). Still, Abba’s moments of extreme exhilaration are produced with enough precision to flutter your senses into oblivion. Of course, ‘Dancing Queen’ has already evolved into a disco cliché, but the elaborate use of strings on this record forces you to ignore the trendy rhythms. Any band that can make even disco sound like the Ronettes can’t be all bad!
There are at least five more smasheroos destined for the dj’s turntable spread all over this LP. You can just bet your Frampton records that a song like ‘Tiger’ will pulverize the transistor waves this spring, shifting the planet on its axis with a sheer magnitude of sound. Same goes for ‘When I Kiss the Teacher’ (don’t expect a light case of puppy love). Ditto for ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’(would give your parakeet goose-bumps). Likewise for the majority of these fine Abba melodies and on the whole, not really one lousy gasp worth mentioning.
It’s possible that Abba’s effusive charm may eventually wear thin, for lately the unemotional and synthetic seem to be all the rage. Certainly Abba could croak overnight competing with the recent plague of lobotomized superstars. With Arrival as a testament of Abba’s stamina, however, better give them another fifty years.
© Robot A. Hull, April 1977, Creem