Friday, 19 July 2013

Pet Shop Boys' Electric revival

'I believe in ecstasy/ The times we've had, you and me/ Friends we've met along the way/ Partied every night and day/ And I know we'll meet again' - Postscript, Pet Shop Boys

At the end of their 1993 album, Very, Pet Shop Boys paid homage to the rave era in a secret track, Postscript. It's a cliché, but it'd be great to hear an echo of final track Vocal at the end of new album Electric. Instead, we get a hint of it at the start of techno opener, Axis. (Rather brilliantly, the nine songs on Electric were recorded, and are sequenced, in alphabetical order.)

Axis could almost be the song vocalist Neil Tennant is singing about in dance paean Vocal, which is the new single, out 28 July: 'I like the singer/ He's lonely and strange/ Every track has a vocal/ And that makes a change.' There's something of revisiting Being Boring here - 'Everyone I hoped would be around has come along... And the feeling of the ones around us all is strong'; very much of the moment, this is also an album of echoes.

The songs bookend the Boys' most dance-influenced album since Very's limited-edition companion, Relentless, abetted by producer Stuart Price. While Price had Madonna sampling Abba (Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!) for Hung Up (2005), however, here the Boys pick up Henry Purcell (via Michael Nyman's 1982 soundtrack for The Draughtsman's Contract?) for Love is a Bourgeois Contract.

One of the album's stand-outs, Love is... opens with Coldplay-style synth strings, which give way to rave chords as if to say, 'The kings are dead, long live the Boys.' (There's a lot of fading in and out on this album and, perhaps my only criticism, some slightly shonky key changes.)

There's lots of Englishness, though: Love is... has Tennant 'taking my time for a long time/ Putting my feet up a lot... I've been thinking how I can't be bothered/ To wash the dishes or remake the bed'. Instead, in an echo of I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing's 'dancing to the Rite of Spring', he finds he 'could dance instead.' In another echo, you could sing the chorus of PSB's first hit from 1985, West End Girls, over the start of Thursday, which features Example and deserves to be a giant summer hit.

Elsewhere Bolshy is boosted by Italo-house piano stabs, the Boys follow the anti-war message of After All (from their 2005 soundtrack to Battleship Potemkin) with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's The Last to Die and - my favourite - they go delightfully bonkers Shouting in the Evening. The revival follows hard on the heels of the best tracks from their last album, Elysium, which was released only 10 months ago, Invisible and Breathing Space.

Remarkably, Electric is Pet Shop Boys' 12th studio album in a 27-year career, now - exactly 20 years on, is it their best since their fifth, Very? Yes, actually.

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