❚ THE NEW ALBUM ELYSIUM from the Pet Shop Boys this week entered the UK album chart at number 9. Curiously, it is being greeted with mixed reviews from younger critics, which is a shame for a creative duo widely regarded as a national treasure. Andy Polaris, lead singer with Animal Nightlife who provided a soundtrack to UK clubbing during the golden age of 80s pop, has offered to redress the balance with this review for Shapersofthe80s …
❏ Andy writes:
The Pet Shop Boys were part of the UK music explosion of the 80s which saw the British invasion of the US and much other global success. Today, along with Yazoo and The Eurythmics, they are the last of the electronic duos from the 80s who are still intact and flourishing.
The passage of time is a recurring theme in their eleventh album, produced by Andrew Dawson who worked on three successful Kanye West albums. Despite their last few albums as recent as Yes in 2010 receiving Grammy nominations (how many of their 80s contemporaries can say that?), if you’re not constantly on heavy airplay rotation or in rehab people assume you’re dead or retired. The perennial problem is: Are your best years behind you? How relevant are you in the current pop climate?
“You’ve been around but you don’t look too rough/ And I still quite like some of your early stuff.” The lyric to Your Early Stuff wittily captures frequent comments from cab drivers and others when confronted with these pop icons. They need not have worried, having popped up twice during the Olympics, at the closing ceremony, riding origami rickshaws, and again last week performing outside Buckingham Palace their new song Winner (from Elysium), along with West End Girl and Go West. This had the Olympic champions and contestants swaying and singing along with the crowd.
The PSBs have a vast, enviable back catalogue of melodic hits but are still producing catchy electronic pop and Elysium contains some trademark mixes of — dare I say it? — their early stuff. Uptempo dance pop with strong choruses include the opening track Leaving, Requiem In Denim and Leopardskin, A Face Like That (no doubt with remixes already in the works), plus Radio 2-friendly songs like Hold On, Memory of A Future, Give It A Go and Winner, which all show off their knack with a melody. On the sombre, reflective ballads Breathing Space and Invisible, remorse never sounded so good.
Finally, never taking themselves too seriously, we have the brilliant, arch Ego Music which owes more to their influences, Sparks and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Lyrically, this number shreds the current crop of pretentious pop stars: “In the sea of negativity I’m a statue of liberty/ That’s why people love me, it’s humbling.”
I would recommend this whole album for its consistency and lack of filler tracks, which is unusual these days. If you haven’t heard the PSBs’ recent output, just sample Ego Music and Invisible. The album title was inspired by a walk in Elysian Park in Los Angeles, a protected area dating back to the founding of the city and given a name appropriately derived from the Greek word for paradise.