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Review: Pet Shop Boys - Electric

petshopboys1Released merely ten months ago, Pet Shop Boys’ last album, Elysium, was a melancholic reflection on getting older. Conversely, here the duo swap their slippers for dancing shoes, drop MDMA into their Ovaltine, and rediscover their youth. In the words of frontman Neil Tennant, the club-orientated “bangers” are back. You hesitate to call new album Electric a “return to form” – as myriad critics doubtless will – because their quality has barely wavered over the past 30 years.

Since most of their contemporaries have succumbed to retromania, there’s something heroic about the way the pair continually manage to sound current while at the same time not resembling any other act in the charts.
Teaming up with producer Stuart Price proves inspired. A self-confessed ‘Pethead’, he lovingly draws on the band’s disco history, while forging forward. On the curtain-raising techno instrumental ‘Axis’ and the sleazy, nocturnal ‘Flourescent’, it feels as if keyboardist Chris Lowe is striding into a hipster Berlin rave at 4am, and proclaiming: “Move aside boys, this is how it’s done”. ‘Bolshy’ – essentially Paninaro 2013 – boasts a pounding house piano and a drop like an open manhole. While there’s an experiment with brostep (the archly-titled ‘Shouting In The Evening’), ‘Inside A Dream’ reconnects them with their original love for hi-NRG maven Bobby O; and is the sort of avant-vintage track Azari & iii would kill for.
At nine songs, there’s no filler and no ballads. ‘The Last to Die’ majestically reinterprets Bruce Springsteen’s hoary anti-Iraq anthem as four-on-the-floor synthpop; less ‘E Street’ and more ‘Amyl Nitrate Highway’. Better still, an unlikely collaboration with rapper Example (‘Thursday’) glistens like a lost gem from Actually.

When it comes to lyrics, ‘Love Is A Bourgeois Construct’ demonstrates Tennant is still the mirrorball Noel Coward. Over fanfares, a ‘Go West’ male choir, and bits that sound like a Sega Megadrive having a nervous breakdown, he talks about ‘searching for the soul of England/drinking tea like Tony Benn’. The message is thrillingly clear: the Pet Shop Boys remain in a class of their own. Gary Ryan

Pet Shop Boys - Electric

Released: 5 July
Rating: ***** (5/5)

Posted: 21 June 2013

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