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As I write, "Dancing Queen," the single from this album, is shing-a-linging its way up the charts, and Abba seems on the verge of completing the conquest of their last great frontier: America. At last, the Homogenizers will rule the land of the Heterogeneous. England, Europe and Australia have been collectively nuts for Abba for about five years. In this country, though the Swedish foursome has had a steady run of successful singles since "Waterloo" in 1974, they haven't provoked the clamor of a phenomenon. Arrival could do just that, since it's the smoothest, purest and, in this sense, most radical Abba album yet.

Even more than their three previous American releases, Arrival is Muzak mesmerizing in its modality. By reducing their already vapid lyrics to utter irrelevance, lead singers Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Fältskog are liberated to matter on in their shrill voices without regard to emotion or expression, and the language barrier is broken. Songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjöln Ulvaeus are indeed apt students of the American white pop hook, but their expansion of the hook to envelop the entire song into a single narcotic hug—as on Arrival's "Dancing Queen," "Dum Dum Diddle" and "Money, Money, Money"—is perhaps the most infuriating thing about this cheery group.

Since they are so cheery and determinedly inoffensive, however, one cannot really hate them. The strongest emotion a dissenter can muster is resentment that these charming twerps will attract enough attention to help obscure the achievements of adventurous artists.


(Posted: Apr 7, 1977)


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