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Pet Shop Boys - Electric (Album Review)

Friday, 12 July 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh

With new electronic acts popping up at every turn, it is fitting that two giants of the genre have returned in 2013. Depeche Mode ended a four-year wait for fans with the release of the critically-acclaimed ‘Delta Machine’ back in March, and now Pet Shop Boys have re-appeared with their first long player since they ended a 28-year association with Parlophone.

After a detour with ‘Elysium’ last year, their last record for their long-time label, the band confirmed that their next album would follow a more familiar musical path. ‘Electric’ is the result.

Producer Stuart Price has worked with the Killers, Madonna and Kylie Minogue, among others, and his magical ability to turn everything he touches into gold is writ large here. From the off, the album is awash with dancefloor fillers.

Axis, the opening track, is for all intents and purposes an instrumental punctuated by heavily distorted vocal bursts; it’s Kraftwerk meets Giorgio Moroder meets Harold Faltermeyer and is a thrilling opening to an impressive collection.

Bolshy is house-tinged and recalls Beloved from the band’s ‘Happiness’ era. A simple synth line introduces the song, which quickly turns into another belting, bassy gem. Love Is A Bourgeois Construct is the first track to sound like Pet Shop Boys of old, and never outstays its welcome after six minutes of instantly-accessible synth-pop genius.  

The song focuses on a bitter relationship break-up, with lines such as “can’t be bothered to wash the dishes and make the bed, what’s the point when I could dust instead”. It gives up on love until the final line, “until you come back”, performs an about turn.

A pulsing bassline introduces Fluorescent, another infectious number benefiting from classic synth effects, while Inside A Dream is another track oozing danceability. It’s driven by a persistent beat and contains a delicate, twinkly synth line that floats above the song throughout the chorus as chords dominate beneath.  

With a reputation for creating completely fresh cover versions, the duo give a Bruce Springsteen song – The Last To Die – the treatment next. The result is another excellent track that soars when the “la la las” hit at the climax of the chorus.

After the techno fun of Shouting In The Evening - which is again far from typical Pet Shop Boys - Thursday returns to more familiar territory with another delicate synth above trademark chords and an excellent chorus featuring Example. The London MC ‘speaks’ the days of the week alongside Tennant’s inspired vocal performance on what is a monster single in the waiting. Album closer Vocal follows a similar ‘Ibiza club’ feel, with Tennant even muttering the lyrics “this is my kind of music, they play it all night long”.

The disappointment of ‘Elysium’ has been wiped from the memory with this excellent album, which contains song after song of high quality dance music. Pet Shop Boys have managed to produce – admittedly with Price’s influence – a belter of an album that, along with Depeche Mode’s ‘Delta Machine’, sets the standard for all of those new electronic acts to follow.

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