January 26, 1981 12:00 PM

ABBA

An unlikely international juggernaut of pop music, this quartet of unimposing Swedes continues, against all odds, to thrive. Even while this LP was stomping up the American charts, singles from it made the Top 10 in Britain, West Germany, France, Holland, Portugal and, of course, Sweden. But the group’s style is still ersatz American. They sing in a Germanically accented English (“advantage” comes out “advantach”) and write their lyrics in an almost-English reminiscent of the instructions that come with Japanese appliances. For example, The Winner Takes it All declares, “The judges will decide/The likes of me abide/Spectators of the show/Always staying low.” Singers Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad both have sweet, penetrating voices, but ABBA’s sound is nasal and tinny, and the appeal of its vigorous rhythm wears off after a few thousand thuds. Maybe this is what the Beach Boys would sound like if they’d been born beside the Baltic.

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