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Pet Shop Boys - Hotspot (Album Review)

Tuesday, 04 February 2020 Written by Jacob Brookman

At this point, it’s safe to say that the Pet Shop Boys are the most understated national treasures in the UK. ‘Hotspot’ is their 14th studio album and the final part in a back-to-basics trilogy that also includes 2014’s ‘Electric’ and its 2016 follow up ‘Super’. It’s an occasionally gripping LP that lands in the middle of a quietly spectacular catalogue that has made them the country’s top selling pop duo.

The album gets going with the third track, Happy People. That distinctive tubular synth bass and clipped electro-snare announce a return familiar territory, and as Neil Tennant’s spoken word verses click into gear, you suddenly feel like you’re in a gay club in a provincial market town and it's 1991.

Like their genre cousins Erasure and, to a lesser extent, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys have been careful to not update their sound too much. So, when they do incorporate highly contemporary elements, such as a collaboration with Years & Years on Dreamland, the result is a tune that is both retro and timeless. 

It’s a thrusting work of disco sass, with a beat that matches the neon of Soho gorgeously. It’s halfway between extrovert musical theatre and terse English stiff upper lip: smack in the middle of their oeuvre, basically.

There are some nice variations, too. Burning The Heather is a gentle ballad that indulges that particular brand of northern miserablism of which Morrissey was king before he got himself cancelled: “There's no one I'm missing / I'm quite happy to be alone / There are no lips I'm kissing.”

As is often the case with electro groups, this is not quite home turf for Messrs Tennant and Lowe, but it does throw textural variation to an album that more generally hovers around the 105bpm mark. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Neil Tennant described how he considered retirement after they “played a half-empty venue in Grimsby on my birthday in 2002.” 

While not their best work, ‘Hotspot’ does reward listeners with tracks that deserve to go straight into their live repertoire. As they embark on a 25 date European arena tour, that is more exceptional than it might initially appear. Like so many things with the Pet Shop Boys, actually.

Pet Shop Boys Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu May 28 2020 - LONDON O2
Fri May 29 2020 - MANCHESTER Arena
Sat May 30 2020 - BIRMINGHAM Resorts World Arena
Tue June 02 2020 - BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Wed June 03 2020 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Fri June 05 2020 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Utilita Arena
Sat June 06 2020 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro

Click here to compare & buy Pet Shop Boys Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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