Ballet scores and mid-paced meditations on life seemed to mark the mutation of the Pet Shop Boys into elder statesmen of pop, no longer troubled by the need to sustain the tempo – in both senses – of the contemporary hit parade. And yet, something clearly didn’t sit right with Tennant and Lowe, resulting in their most energetic and relentlessly hands in the air music in twenty years. While familiar musical tropes abound, this is not that last vestige of the desperate fame-hunter: limp re-treads of what has gone before. Instead, the twisted disco and warped pop that underpin everything great about ‘Electric’ are a clear sign that the duo are far from done.
The addition of Stuart Price on production was a masterstroke, adding a contemporary sheen to their always sterling hooks. The everything-up-to-eleven synth explosion of ‘Vocal’ has the same mesmerising power as anything from ‘Introspective’, while ‘Fluorescent’ is mixed in such a fashion that Neil’s double-tracked vocal appears to be hovering somewhere behind your eyes. It’s mildly disconcerting but indisputably addictive. ‘Inside A Dream’ is the closest thing to their Eighties incarnation, largely due to one very distinctive sound, while ‘Shouting In The Evening’ is like a whole song grew out of those increasingly bizarre reprises they were so fond of tacking onto singles several decades ago.
‘Love Is A Bourgeois Construct’ alone is enough to render all existing PSB Greatest Hits albums incomplete. Dramatic strings, dubby basslines and a quick burst of male voice choir seem a perfectly logical backdrop for one of Neil’s finest lyrics of the album: a 21st century disco break-up smash. By the time it shreds itself in the final minute, it’s hard to believe the duo had ever seemed a little tired. If one song is enough to make you truly love an album, then this is it. The music industry is long past the point where a duo in their fifties will be a chart-shagging smash, but it seems ludicrous that this track hasn’t been one of the defining tunes of the year. If you’ve always thought they were fluffy, frothy nonsense then your cynicism isn’t wanted here. Otherwise, be sure to check in with the band’s 2013 model. Reborn, revitalised and really rather good.