POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Bjorn Again Brings ABBA Back in Style

The show by the Australian group Bjorn Again at the House of Blues on Sunday was a release point for all the ABBA energy that's been building in the pop world over the past year-plus--what with a four-CD box set and prominent positions in such hit cult films as "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Muriel's Wedding."

With the Swedish pop icons having disbanded in the early '80s, there's clearly a void to fill, and Sunday's crowd, given the chance to pretend it was '75 all over again, went nuts at Bjorn Again's rousing replica of the ABBA experience.

ABBA's music was the pinnacle commercial pop, a celestial blend of catchyness and sonic richness, with enough attitude in the tangy harmonies to give it staying power. After six years of developing its little "ABBAmania," Bjorn Again has it down pat, from the depth of the instrumental backing to the vocal timbre and intonation to an eerie physical resemblance and re-creations of designer Owe Sandstrom's ABBA-wear--Japanese-style shirts on Bjorn and Benny, cat-design dresses (to begin) on Frida and Agnetha.

The members of Bjorn Again use funny names (Bjorn Volvo-us, Agnetha Falstart, etc.) and talk on stage in funny accents, but ABBA is pretty much spoof-proof, and Bjorn Again doesn't force it too much. The major departure from the ABBA oeuvre was a mid-set sketch suggesting that Bjorn and Benny's need for the girls' respect is all that stands between them and the mud of grunge and heavy metal. It rocked hard, and allowed the girls to change into pleated mini-dresses.

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