PSB – Electric

Yes, the new Pet Shop Boys is out and I’ve been meaning to write about it for ages. Not least because I’m very impressed with what they’ve turned out – again.

First off, I am a fan. A quick glance at my iPod shows that I have almost 200 tracks of  theirs – and that’s about 1 for every year they’ve been going. But I didn’t like last year’s rather dreary offering, Elysium. This was of concern. But I needn’t have worried: Electric couldn’t be more different. It’s very dancy – something like you would expect of one of their remix albums, rather than straight out of the studio. But, as The Quietus pointed out, they keep things in check:

Instead of using that as the excuse to do something daft and over-ooof the pudding, ‘Bolshy’ continues with its sun-dappled panache. This is Pet Shop Boys at their sexiest, most sun-kissed

I’m often guilty of doing something daft and over-ooofing the pudding, so it’s nice to see that experience has taught them to be able to avoid that.

Experience (and the fact that that they’re producing content under their own label now) has also allowed them to choose exactly what they want to release and the result is a no holds barred, hi-energy dance album which somehow manages to take you straight back to the gay clubs of the early 1990s, while bridging the gap between 80’s electronica and 2013 dubstep.

It’s only 9 tracks long, but even within that there are many of the best things they’ve done in years. It’s all good, but the standout tracks for me are, in no particular order, Love Is A Bourgeois Construct, Thursday, Axis and Vocal. And that’s almost half an album full.

Axis is the first track on the album and Tennant encourages us to “turn it up”. It’s fast, powerful, unapologetic dance and a great intro to what’s to come, with its repeated “Electric Energy”:

Love Is A Bourgeois Construct [youtube audio] drops in at track three and the massed ranks of the male voice choir, last heard in Go West, are back. The backbone is a solid dance version of the theme from Henry Purcell’s 1691 opera King Arthur. Yes, really. There are aggressive violins, muted brass and even a harpsichord. There’s not many groups that could pull that sort of thing off, but this is perfection. Due for release on 2nd September, it should go far, but probably won’t.

Vocal [youtube] is the 2013 version of It’s Alright: simply a celebration of the joy of music:

And everything about tonight feels right and so young
And anything I’d want to say out loud will be sung

It’s in the music
It’s in the song
Everyone I hoped would be around has come along
For the music

It’s in the music
It’s in the song
And the feeling of the warmth around us all is so strong
It’s in the music

It rounds off the album and just as Axis starts it perfectly, Vocal makes you appreciate just how much you’ve enjoyed the past 49 minutes and 12 seconds. There’s no agenda here, just simple jubilance at how music can uplift the human soul.

But my favourite, I think, has to be Thursday [youtube audio] in which we’re encouraged to stay for (a somewhat elongated) weekend:
“Come on. Why not?” purrs Tennant.
The track starts with a glockenspiel motif over a background of synth which could be from any of the late 80’s PSB tracks. And then, the pizzicato strings and 7-chord piano intro into the chorus. And then, just when you think it can’t get any better – UK rapper Example (who was born nearly 2 years after the Pet Shop Boys got together) pops up and does his thing. It’s unexpected, but it fits and it works.

There’s actually very little that I don’t like about this album, very little indeed. And, though it’s amongst some really strong competition (some of which hasn’t even been released yet), this is top of my list for my best album this year right now.

Go buy it.

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