The kids in the clubs up all night on amphetamine and MDNA probably don’t believe that we actually used to dance non-ironically to pop music. More specifically, we used to dance to a famous pop group called ABBA, who were fronted by two Swedish bomb-shells, Agnetha and Frida. Irony however can be the song of the prisoner who’s come to love his cage, which is why Agnetha Faêltskog’s A should be taken as a straight dose.
What’s important not to overlook is that a successful album back in the ‘70s could still contain as much filler as a patchy old camper van; on hit albums, there could be moments of genius interspersed with stretches of turgid rot, meaning that the listener could experience moments of extreme exuberation to sudden despair and loathing. Listening to records became like a game of roulette. Agnetha Faêltskog’s A is a little like this, in that whilst its invariable nature did not start the recent Stockholm rights, it veers from brilliance to banality without any warning whatsoever.
It certainly starts off well with “The One Who Loves You Now” and “When You Really Loved Someone”, sweet, sugary music for you to while away your summer next to the swimming pool. It’s multi-layered and modern with hooks that would make any songwriter drool like Homer Simpson over a large pile of extra-iced donuts. But then things start to go down hill a little; “Perfume in the Breeze” is only just redeemed by some catchy whistling and “I Was a Flower” struggles to deal with the tricky subject matter. “I Should’ve Followed You Home” is a duet with Gary Barlow; for this, some suspension of irony is required given that the romance is bordering on dependency. Still, the melody is appealing.
Unfortunately the lyrics of “Past Forever” push a native English speaker to the limits of endurance, but then perhaps I’m just a tough, cynical bunny. “Dance Your Pain Away” then lurches into disco. This song is almost impossible not to like, and has the potential to be a big, camp hit on the dance floor. It’s surprising therefore that the album then slowly ebbs out with a trio of acceptable but ultimately uninspiring songs.
A has moments of brilliance, so it’s perhaps all the more noticeable when not every song hits the sweet spot. Still, the nature of the overall proposition means it’s unlikely I’ll ever give up completely on this particular charming and talented Swedish girl.