Rarely has a reunion seemed as superfluous as ABBA's. In Europe and Australasia, 40 years after they first broke up, ABBA remain omnipotent, an ever-present part of the pop landscape, like guitar solos and interminable Coldplay album rollouts. The band's legacy may have dimmed slightly in the 1980s, after their split at the start of the decade. But since the early 1990s--and particularly following the release of ABBA Gold in 1992--ABBA's traces can be found in every nook and cranny of cultural life, from musicals to movies, Madonna to museums.
It barely needs to be said by now that the return in 2021 of ABBA with an entire album, after almost 40 years professionally apart, is an unprecedented cultural event. The hopes and fears projected onto this, in today's terms, very neat and concise package of songs, are almost comparable to what might happen if Elvis Presley finally rose from his grave and announced a cadaverous comeback concert. Can they possibly produce a set of songs that will satisfy everybody? The easy response is to simply state "no", relax, and take it from there.
Accompanying their first new material in four decades comes a revolutionary hologram London residency beginning next year, with avatars of the group in their '70s prime taking the stage with a live band. Hologram shows are nothing new, but it's never been done on the huge scale that the "ABBA-tars" are about to undertake. However, Voyage, a record fans have been highly anticipating, isn't quite the innovative masterpiece one would expect from one of the most influential groups in music history.
The strange second life of ABBA took another turn just a few weeks ago. The perennial success of 'ABBA Gold' has introduced consecutive generations of one of pop's foremost creative engines, while barn-storming film series Mamma Mia relishes the camp delights of their formidable catalogue. Yet the emergence of 'Voyage' - as both an album, and a sort-of-live project - adds another chapter to a story that, to all intent and purpose, ended five decades ago.