Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Agnetha Fältskog - Dance Your Pain Away (2013)

Create an illusion, cause some confusion
Lock your tears inside and show some pride

Turns out that Agnetha really did have one more ace to play, which might explain the significance of calling her forthcoming album A, but in particular I am talking about her new offering Dance The Pain Away. Wasting no time (having not released original material in over 25 years), after the swanky scuttle of what is known in the music industry as a drum beat, we are quickly thrust into a nervous overload of overflowing disco fantasia. With a swift momentum of sweeping strings and a dollop of 'been there, done that, got the royalties' panache that only an old timer who was there first time around can convey, her passionate diligence escalates into a dizzying whirl of sharp lyrical discretion, disillusioned rejoice, stoic defense strategics and flat-out plaintive 'legs to the ceiling' rapture.

In a long line of cubicle betrayals, number 1 priority is to dance. "You caught him in the rest room ... with another one" could very well be the shadiest powder-room antics since Sophie Amogbokpa got protective over a bowl of lollipops. With a drizzle of disco deposits smeared all over the joint, Dance The Pain Away is about flushing it all out your system and coming out of it smelling of roses, all the while spectators of the show are expecting your very worst. A-ha! Agnetha doesn't seem to think so.

The lift-off from the chorus is a solo-career best. If unsure whether to laugh or cry, "let there be rumours, pay no attention" pushes the singer to the limits of her integrity. Not since Dusty Springfield's Village People-esque Reputation have vicious whispers been so decadently dismissed in such rich musical surroundings. Going full-pelt, "nothing, he got nothing, he got nothing on you" rains down from the heavens, simultaneously echoing a familiarly shimmying guitar riff from Does Your Mother Know (lightly salting the occasional with a welcome bite of irony). Lyrically concise, depicting being cheated on as a mere cardiovascular/choreography challenge works for me, whether it is dancing as desperation or dancing as survival, there doesn't have to be a difference. The rhythmic shifts are exhilarating, including some exquisite piano work (particularly just before the song hits its final stride), merging disco and discord with glorious, heartfelt aplomb. 

The voice is still magic: delicate and no less compelling, a gaggle of backing vocalists do some heavy lifting at the end, but your feet won't even be touching the parquet floor by then. The initial wariness and fragility of the singing has subsided into bittersweet celebration on the chorus. The intensifying pop momentum is revved up so high it soars over its own complexities, and if catching lovers in the bogs isn't a universal concern, the heady grasp of gasping disco specifics can't be denied. The instant you listen, it's like she has never been away. Fältskog has never been more tuneful and charming than when having misery and a disco-ball to contend with, and "don't run for the dorr, get back on the florr, don't give them what they're waiting for" is just one of the many lyrical gifts.

Overall, the lavish ornamentation transforms the curiosity of the singer's shy, hesitant gloom of the verses (which are a massive departure for this one of course), into perfectly inhabitable moments of madness that keep going on and on and on long after it has finished, and my feet keep dancing.