By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
Purpose of the experiment:
To determine if ABBA's music has been criminally underrated.
Methodology of the experiment:
In order to immerse myself in all things ABBA, I will listen to the nine ABBA discs consecutively, in chronological order, over the course of a single day. Because interruptions might skew the results, I put a note on my office door ("PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB: ABBA EXPERIMENT IN PROGRESS") and a special message on my voice mail ("This is Mike Roberts from Westword, and today, Wednesday, April 7, I am conducting an experiment involving the band ABBA that will prevent me from returning any phone calls. If there is an emergency on the level of you being on fire, press zero and have someone at the front desk interrupt me. But bear in mind that you could ruin everything"). In addition, there is to be no lunch break, and only the quickest of trips to the water fountain and/or restroom are allowed. No magazines are to be read while answering nature's call, and the tape player must be put on "pause" during any absences to guarantee that not one second of ABBA's work is missed.
Notes from the experiment:
9:21 a.m.: I remove Ring Ring from its jewel box and place it in my boombox--which, for some reason, refuses to play it. I struggle with the machine for two minutes, trying my best not to see this as a bad omen, before placing the CD in my computer's player. It works.
9:23 a.m.: "Ring Ring" kicks off. Agnetha and Frida's jarringly cheerful singing sounds otherworldly, like an extraterrestrial's approximation of a woman's voice. The guitars, drums, keyboards and bass don't seem quite real, either. But the whole thing is undeniably catchy, like a commercial jingle you can get out of your head only by buying the product that's being advertised.
9:41 a.m.: On the unbelievably bubblegummy "Love Isn't Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough)," the line "Love isn't just a sensation/Sometimes it gets rough" is followed by the boing of a mallet rapping a kettle drum. I laugh, thinking that maybe this test will be enjoyable after all.
9:44 a.m.: I'm disappointed to discover that "Me and Bobby and Bobby's Brother" isn't about a menage à trois. Obviously, these Euro-minxes are getting to me already.
9:57 a.m.: "Rock 'N Roll Band" has a quasi-distorted guitar that nearly reaches Bay City Rollers intensity, but the lyrics are Hallmark-card sunshiny: "We could have fun together" and "You're gonna feel much better" are as dark as they get. It's dopey, sure, but I can tell that my frown has been turned upside down.
10:00 a.m.: Disc two, Waterloo (from 1974), slides into place, and the title track bounces out, with Agnetha and Frida finding unfathomable joy in Napoleon's greatest defeat. "I feel like I win when I lose!" they declare with exquisite plasticity as the piano chords dance and a saxophone wails (but not too insistently). And then, in two minutes and 43 seconds, it's over--like sex with an especially comely inflatable love doll.
10:07 a.m.: "King Kong Song" features gorilla noises, silly screams and background vocals that go "wamba-wamba-wamba-oooh-oooh-oooh." Have I already started to hallucinate?
10:16 a.m.: Midway through "My Mama" comes a guitar solo that would be reminiscent of Phish if it weren't only seven seconds long. Later, the lyrics "My mama said/'I suppose you'd rather see me dead'/All I wanted in my life/Wanted in my life/La-la-la/La-la-la life!" make me wonder if the singers learned English from the Seventies equivalent of Hooked on Phonics.
10:26 a.m.: Now things are really starting to get weird. In "What About Livingstone," the Nordic four take space travelers to task for not giving enough credit to the explorers who came before them, asking "Wasn't it worth the while/To sail the Nile?" with something almost resembling conviction. I hope Neil Armstrong is ashamed of himself.