I’m going to level with you right from the get-go, ladies and gentlemen; the prospect of reviewing the twelfth album by ageing chart-botherers The Pet Shop Boys did not fill me with much joy. Though, as a chap of a certain age, I must confess to a certain amount of guilty pleasure derived from the run of wonderful singles released by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe in the mid 80’s (“It’s A Sin” being a particular favourite of mine), but the very thought of new material filled me with a creeping sense of dread.
A glimmer of hope was kindled when I read that the new record, Electric, was produced by none other than Stuart Price, the man behind 1999’s Darkdancer (released under the pseudonym Les Rhythmes Digitales) which provided much of the soundtrack to the final summer of my teenage years. Further encouragement came from pounding, almost completely instrumental opening track “Axis,” which showed a much harder edged dance sound than I had expected to hear from such elder statesmen of the pop milieu. Electric‘s stand-out moment, the fantastically titled “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct,” follows soon after, pairing witty, vintage Neil Tennant lyrics over a catchy, Michael Nyman sampling dance-pop beat. Unsurprisingly, “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct” is to be released as a single, and is strong enough to comfortably stand toe-to-toe with the very best of The Pet Shop Boys’ output.
Not every track hits the mark, however. “Bolshy” and “Fluorescent” are slightly bland, predictable and forgettable dance-pop while “Thursday,” a collaboration with Example, is something of a disappointment given how much I usually enjoy the London rapper’s work. An oddly touching cover of Bruce Springsteen’s anti-war effort “The Last To Die,” provides a poignant, emotional moment toward the end of what proved to be an unexpectedly enjoyable and entertaining album.
Yeah, ok, I admit it. I was wrong. Despite my hang-ups and preconceptions about what The Pet Shop Boys would, and maybe should, sound like in 2013, I found myself enjoying Electric immensely. Great production, catchy hooks and witty lyrics combine to create a much more vital, relevant album than I had any right to expect from a band whose previous career highs came almost thirty years ago.[subscribe2]