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This Pet Shop Boys' release is their seventh album of wholly original material. Their forward-looking approach to music- and song-writing has kept their music fresh with each new album. The unison of contemporary dance music to Tennant's intelligent, emotional lyrics is as good as it always has been.
The two opening tracks - 'For Your Own Good' and 'Closer To Heaven' - bring this style sharply into focus. Both are strong dance tunes with clear trance sounds. The former features input from Faithless frontman Rollo (who has worked with PSB before) and is a haunting, pounding track vaguely reminiscent of his own 'Insomnia'.
From here the albums dips into various other genre, often with great success. 'Happiness Is An Option' sounds like the best thing that ever happened to R&B. 'You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk', the highest charting single from this album, even throws country-esque guitar twangs into the PSB dance blend.
There is, sadly, one moment where the whole thing nearly falls flat on its' face. 'The Only One' is, as Chris Lowe notes, 'What (The Pet Shop Boys) would be like as a boy band', but this really isn't a good thing. It lacks the sophistication which gleans the rest of the album.
Following 'The Only One' comes a pair of cracking songs. Neither are particularly accessible on first listen, but with time their quality shines through. The music to 'Boy Strange' swells in intenisty in perfect sympathy with some of the most elegant lyrics ever written:
"In the eyes of the world, he's a borderline fool,
Both naive and cruel"
'In Denial' features Kylie Minogue's vocals, sung deep in sharp contrast to Tennant's higher pitch, as the two roll out an emotional song in conversational form about a father coming to terms with his homosexuality.
Only the Pet Shop Boys would set themselves so rigid a design constraint as focussing an entire album on songs set at in the night. But they have done so magnificently. You might expect it to make logical sense to argue that, after seventeen years of songwriting, the Pet Shop Boys Boys are losing their touch. This album, however, proves otherwise.
Not one of the more widely discussed Pet Shop Boys albums and it is perhaps easy to see why as this one did not yield that many memorable hit songs, there are a few delights but have they lost their golden touch?
Tracks: There are the usual suspects on the album, The Pet Shop Boys make brilliant and often intelligent and commanding synth pop. This album keeps much to that tradition and throws up some upbeat disco camp numbers like New York City Boy. Tennant seems to be relishing this one, reliving some of his wilder days perhaps?! Then we have more sombre moments You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk, which is a heartfelt and gut wrenching synth pop ballad that will have you reaching for the hankies if you listen hard enough to the lyrics.
Alongside the three hit singles are some fine gems, check out Closer To Heaven, where Neil's vocals are at their sweetest.
Artwork: As usual with the guys, arty and stylised and pretty avant garde
Overall: Not their strongest album but captures Pet Shop Boys in a moment and a time which might not come round again.
Verdict: Borrow it first
This is, in my opinion, the Pet Shop Boys' best album yet (a very close second is 'Behaviour'). Petshop Boys write great pop songs which are about relationships but are written and performed in a way as to not sound 'cheesy'. They started out in the '80s with great electronic tunes such as 'It's a Sin', 'Surburbia', 'West End Girls' and 'Let's Make Lots of Money'. They have worked hard to produce great simple pop songs which are not outdated. I say simple, but Neil writes these cleverly and with humour. This album is their most experimental. The album has a great start with 'For Your Own Good Call Me Tonight'. This has a trance sound. If this had been released as a single I think they would have been seen in a different light. It is very up tempo and brilliant to dance to and is different to the New York City Boy type of song which is on the album. I cannot resist getting up to dance to this one at home with the volume turned high. New York City Boy is very camp. They were asked to do a Village People type of song and they did, which shows their humourous side. The chorus 'New York City Boy' is not the best part as this can get boring, but Neil sings the rest of the song well. They have released quite a few singles recently which are on the album. These include 'New York City Boy','You only tell me You Love Me When You're Drunk' where Neil Tennant plays the acoustic guitar and 'Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore' another dance song. Kylie Minogue sings a duet with Neil on one track called 'In Denial'. Although, not a fan of hers I thought she had a strong voice and could think of nobody who could have made the song sound any better. The song is about a father's denial of his homosexuality. The song I found most difficult to get into was 'Vampires', but after
listening to it 3-4 times I really like it now. It is at the time of writing now selling at Our Price for £4. This annoys me because why would such a good album be reduced like this, and also because I spent £15 recently on it.
This is the Pet Shop Boys most recent album and, in my opinion, one of their best. As usual, even the up-tempo songs have elements of sadness in them, thanks to Neil Tennant's voice, and the overall feel is quite melancholy which is unusual for such a 'pop' album. Chris Lowe's keyboards sound fantastic throughout and he is clearly very talented, but on this album there are also orchestral arrangements on nearly every track which are of a very high standard as they were written by Craig Armstrong who was responsible for string arrangement on Suede's 'Coming Up' album. Despite getting older, the group are still very much in step with the fashions of music, with the opening tracks sounding something like club anthems. There are several duets on the album, with 'Happiness is an option' showing off Sylvia Mason-James' excellent voice. Less successful is 'In denial' which is a good song ruined by bad lyrics and Kylie Minogue's flat and expressionless performance. Probably the highlight is the single 'New York City boy', which, while it is camp beyond belief, is very catchy and you will find yourself playing it over and over again.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 For Your Own Good
2 Closer to Heaven
3 I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More
4 Happiness Is an Option
5 You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
8 Only One
9 Boy Strange
10 In Denial
11 New York City Boy