ALBUM REVIEW: PET SHOP BOYS – ELECTRIC
PET SHOP BOYS
Release Date: July 15, 2013
Readers of this publication will likely already know that there’s nothing that I, Billy Manes, like more than the Pet Shop Boys (except maybe Duran Duran). So, on the occasion of the release of their latest record Electric, I decided to forgo the standard set-up-and-contextualize format for reviewing the album; I’ve already done that for each of their last four albums in this paper I think, and if you’re reading a Pet Shop Boys review in 2013, you already know most of the damn story already. (They left Parlophone and started their own label. They worked with Stuart Price. They’re touring and will be in St. Pete on Sept. 13 WITH ME). Instead, I went all fanboy (totally posted this to a PSB forum before posting it here, of course) and did a track-by-track overreaction to this amazing piece of work. It’s not out yet, hasn’t even leaked, so that only adds to ridiculousness presented to you below. Seriously, though. This is a work of genius that your life will soon require. This review? You probably won’t like it unless you like me. Enjoy?
AXIS: We already know this one, big moody Moroderisms thumping into a Miami Vice night of neon. Especially love the bending melodies as the full predatory climax comes on around the five minute mark. The bells! The bells! Well, no so much bells as a late ’80s approximation of a freestyle nightclub wink from across a smoke machine. Phenomenal lead in. 9/10
BOLSHY: The bells are back! More winking and nudging. The smoke machine has hit the fritz and elicited house pianos and Russian ladytalk samples (!). The chorus “Bolshy, bolshy, bolshy-o, where you lead my heart will go” is whimsical bliss. There’s some “It’s a Sin” CRACK bombast in here, too, and some cowbell-in-a-meltdown flourish. Acid facemelting, handclaps, it’s 1989 and i have a bucket of flourescent liquor. BRING THE CRAZY BREAKDOWN WITH SCREAMING MONKEYS… before everything drops out for an a capella “OH” from Neil. NEXT: KEYCHANGE! Exits on a breath. A brilliant amusement ride. 10/10
LOVE IS A BOURGEOIS CONSTRUCT: The echoes of Madonna’s “Hung Up” mentioned before are not as put-offish as expected, because, really, it’s a very Pet Shop Boys thing to do, that bleeding sample melody on top thing. Then it’s full bounce (with MORE BELLS!) in a way that’s not wholly unlike It Doesn’t Always Snow At Christmas with some Suburbia thrown in. This is the real Neil lyrical number, one that wouldn’t sound out of place next to In His Imagination. “Just a full time lonely layabout, that’s me.” There’s something incredibly sweet-and-sad-student about this one (“student paperbacks,” indeed). Wistful. BUT THEN THE NOODLING SYNTHS AND “BOURGEOIS-BOURGEOIS-ZEE” MELTDOWN PLUS MEN’S CHOIR! This is heaven and heavenly. THOROUGHLY SATISFYING. 10/10
FLOURESCENT: PANTING GIRL (ALA “ALL SHE WANTS IS” DURAN) ALERT! This one reminds me of “Minimal” in parts, but bends darkness and light sonically in a way that inspires a sort of nightclub panic-attack vertigo. It’s a little bleak, a little Soft Cell with a bullhorn, some cascading euphoria and twinkling doubt. Sweet exit in falsetto. 8/10
INSIDE A DREAM: Oooooh, disorienting deep house chant at the top, leading to that welcome-to-the-funhouse “taking a ride inside a dream” come hither from Neil. What could possibly go wrong? “Looks familiar, feels obscene, inside a dream.” Oh, that! Back to the Freestyle Bell Mechanism that I love. Who woulda thunk the underpinning theme of this record would be that moment when Lisa Lisa met Expose? IT’S TRUE. (and amazing, kinda like when Tracey Thorn did “It’s All True” a few years back). “A new melody with such delay-ay-ay” hahahaha! SOARING BITS SPECKLED WITH MORE BELLS. Yet all remarkably moody. 8/10
THE LAST TO DIE: This works SO much better on record than on a bouncing iPhone in Chile or wherever. Neil’s vocals are fully harmonized and much of the joy of the musical accompaniment is buried in that thump of the OTHER side of a closing nightclub door or bathroom stall. You know, the menacing bottom line. It is really a Killers song, isn’t it? But it’s better than that, because it’s our Neil and he’s being super sincere, drawing on the elegiac thing that made Go West actually matter in a sad way. LA, LA, LA, LA… 9/10
SHOUTING IN THE EVENING: OOOOOH, SURPRISING CALL TO ACTION OF “SHOUT!” BEFORE ACID BEATS RAGING IN CIRCLES ON YOUR HEAD! “What a feeling, shouting in the evening!” Neil’s voice has been stretched into something like electric harmony helium here. “feels so good” vaguely coming in from behind by chris, maybe? The bulk of this conjures Relentless, but then the bells and winks and freestyle kisses are back. NOISE PARTY! BANGER! PSYCHO SOUNDTRACK INSISTENCE! HANDCLAPS! and we’re out. 7/10
THURSDAY: HELLO, BELLS. WELCOME BACK. So much has already been made of this song, but it’s a lush urban soundscape that initially takes us back to that mall-walk of West End girls – talking bits – and then gets into that insistence of other Please-era gems about being young, gay and lonely. Tonight IS forever! And Chris Paninaro talking while feeling better in the dark. EXAMPLE SHOWS UP WITH SOME STRINGS UNDER HIM and makes you want to have sex or something. Hate to say it, but he actually pushes this song into something classic; the opposite of e-smoove and his so-called Liberation. 10/10
VOCAL: EVERYBODY HAS ALREADY HEARD THIS. but in the context of this album it is ABSOLUTELY the perfect closer and the perfect single (which is really a rare thing). It feels like the end-of-night, triumphant, Last Dance epilogue of all that’s come before it. And, sincerely, if you were in a club in America in 1993 and didn’t feel this exact way, then you don’t have any feelings. Bravo Pet Shop Boys for reminding us again of who we are and will always be. IT’S IN THE MUSIC. 10/10
Thanks for humoring me. Now tell me how much sense I didn’t make! Streams of consciousness can be causes for drowning.