After recently sharing my favourite songs by ABBA I thought I may as well talk about some of their albums. For many, ABBA is known more for their singles than their full-length albums. While I can certainly see why this has been the case, considering Gold is possibly the best compilation in existence, their albums also hold up. That’s not to say every record was a home run. Their earlier releases were singles albums without a doubt, but Arrival, The Album, Super Trouper, and The Visitors possessed plenty of hidden gems.
So what do we have with The Visitors? For any casual fan, ABBA’s final full-length album doesn’t provide many familiarities. There are no songs like “Dancing Queen” or “Mamma Mia” here, but there are songs reminiscent of “The Winner Takes It All,” and if you read my list a few days back, you know how much I adore that track. The Visitors is a mature record, one filled with heartbreak, tension, and sorrow. Yes, at its heart, it’s still a pop album. It’s coloured with synths and catchy melodies that continue to sing in your mind days later. But there is also a weariness beneath these songs that keep them from floating too high. Even if it wasn’t intended to be, The Visitors just feels like a final album.
What better example than the title track? The album starts with Frida’s eerie, shaking vocals portraying fear of some unknown attacker before jumping into a frantic, disorientating chorus. It’s a brilliantly executed song that paints a far darker aesthetic than anything we’ve heard from the group before. “Head Over Heels” calls back to earlier days with its optimistic lyrics about perseverance and ambition. The song also leaves traces of musical theatre with its dramatic vocals and fast pacing. Bjorn and Benny were getting tired of writing pop songs at this time and wanted to venture into more adventurous works. “I Let The Music Speak” is the most blatant example of their hunger for the magnificent. It’s a massive song that’s possibly too bloated for its own good. Even so, it’s a struggle not to be swept away by its marvelous, fantasy-inspired melody. “Slipping Through My Fingers” is another gorgeous tune I’d be at fault if I didn’t mention. It’s an Agnetha led ballad about a mother’s sadness as she watches her child grow up. “Slipping through my fingers all the time / I try to capture every minute / The feeling in it / Slipping through my fingers all the time / Do I really see what’s in her mind / Each time I think I’m close to knowing / She keeps on growing / Slipping through my fingers all the time.” Once again the vocal harmonies are nothing short of mesmerizing.
While The Visitors is ABBA’s slowest record there are still a fair number of songs that satisfy the desire for more upbeat pop. “When All is Said and Done” is a wonderfully driving song that looks fondly at the past before moving on to different roads. The album’s lead single, “One Of Us,” also displays ABBA’s signature sound, with a bouncy bass in the verse and a solemn yet beautiful chorus. The only oddball here is the Bjorn led “Two For The Price Of One.” The track has an undeniable groove for sure but it doesn’t quite fit the album and its fictional misunderstanding is awkward, to say the least.
I feel The Visitors is a forgotten classic. Even without the stand-alone singles that made them a household name, this album is one of, if not their absolute best. It’s a beautiful, harrowing farewell from a group far too many are embarrassed to listen to today. If you’re one of those folks who think ABBA is synonymous with mom music, put that aside and give this record at least one listen. They were masters of their craft and still the greatest pop act I’ve ever come across. And still, The Visitors proves they were so much more.