Monday, 15 July 2013
Pet Shop Boys - Electric - Review
Ten months after their previous album, Elysium, (which I reviewed here) the mighty Pet Shop Boys give us another one word album beginning with the letter E (at this point they should make an E Trilogy, really). And this one is a slightly different beast. Elysium a bit on the contemplative side but Electric, released with a new company Kobalt on their own label x2, is...electric indeed, a pulsating dance-oriented beauty. Produced by Stuart Price (the man behind The Killers' finest pop moment Human), it's every bit as good as you'd expect a collaboration between the dance pop* producer and the dance pop** duo to be.
Electric is somewhat less lyric-oriented than PSB albums tend to be but that doesn't mean Neil Tennant's signature wit and wordsmithery lack completely. It's just somewhat diluted. If you want a higher concentration, revisit Elysium. Lyrics are really not so much the centre of the record but I don't consider that a negative, I merely observe.
Wish for a track by track commentary? Well, what do you know...here's one:
Axis - Turn it up! Kay, whatever you say, sir! This is the song that introduced the album to us back in May. When I first heard it I was a bit confused...I waited for it to go somewhere but it never did. But going somewhere is not the point of the song, is it. Hardly any lyrics, just "electric energy". And after repeated listens it works. And just like most of the rest of the album it manages to sound simultaneously retro and futuristic.
Bolshy - I found this song a bit annoying at the very first listen. But most of it has grown on me since, at first thanks to the lyrics, suggesting the singer of the song is in fact a bit obsessed with a Russian person. You don't get many songs about that. You can also use this song as a starting point for learning the Russian language, since several lines sung by Neil get briskly translated by a Russian female voice. A special note: Bolshy features the sexiest sounding "oh!" I've heard in quite a while.
Love Is A Bourgeois Construct - The title almost sounds like a parody of a Pet Shop Boys song title. But it is probably the poppiest song on the album (!). The hero of the song is not a fan of love (until his "you" comes back to him). Also fanfares and male choirs. Pure pop.
Fluorescent - One sexy beast. It's reminiscent of the Scissor Sisters' Sex and Violence which, as the rest of the Night Work album, was also produced by Mr. Price. Hands down the hottest song on Electric. And it features the word "incandescent", which is kind of brilliant.
Inside A Dream - A pretty track. Very sound landscape-y. Which to me translates as a bit boring. It conjures up images of pretty people on a pretty beach on a pretty island by a pretty sea. And that's not so much a life I covet.
The Last to Die - A cover version of a five year-old Bruce Springsteen song I don't really know. Getting the "I know this is not the best or most inventive song I've ever heard but I'm a bit obsessed with it at the moment" feeling. (Well as much as you can get obsessed by a song about blood being spilled for a mistake.)
Shouting in the Evening - The weakest track on the album for me (it does have some good bits though). Very rave, reminds me of the kind of early 90's dance music that I pretty much hate. But I guess it was fun to make? If it was, good for the Boys.
Thursday - while the rest of the album sounds very dance 90's, Thursday is the song that would quite easily fit into Please. The bass, the house piano, Neil's lyrics containing "let's do it right" and "stay with me for the weekend". But it also features something new for the Pet Shop Boys - a guest rap section by a still somewhat young man called Example. Also on this track: Chris Lowe's showing us that he does, in fact, know the names of the last four days of the week, and that is pretty much the cherry on top. Thursday might be my favourite on the album at this point.
Vocal - well this song is about dancing to music in a club (or other places densely populated by dancing people). The current single from the album got a pretty spot on video that many fans disliked because of its simplicity (it showed people dancing). Interestingly, the song's "vibe" reminds me a bit of Robbie Williams's Summertime, only Vocal is about 50% less depressing, with 89% less lyrics. But it's equally great and melancholy.
I like the people, I like the song
This is my kind of music
They play it all night long
I like the singer, he’s lonely and strange
Every track has a vocal, and that makes a change
Electric is a perfect album for these summer days and summer nights. It's very alive, which makes it a perfect dance (if still slightly melancholy) counterpart to the end of things-themed Elysium. Get it, listen to it, dance to it. Camp at a music festival. Stop hating people. Get a dog. And/or a lover. Proper speakers.
*I realise Stuart has produced non-dancy stuff. See pretty much everything he's ever done with the Killers, except Human, that is.
**I'm not good with labels in music, so I call everything pop-ish you can dance to "dance pop". Sorry.