Pet Shop Boys’ hugely underwhelming last album, Elysium, sounded like synth-pop’s most arch duo had simply given up. So it comes as something of a surprise that less than twelve months on, they have returned not only with a brand new record, Electric, but also the most pulsing, energetic and vibrant album of their thirty-year career.
Produced by Stuart Price, the man who oversaw a similar return-to-form with Madonna’s Confessions On A Dancefloor, the record’s nine tracks barely pause for breath as they journey through the annals of UK club culture, a tour-de-force approach which belies the fact that Neil Tennant is now only two years away from his 60th birthday.
Comparisons, of course, will be made with a certain robotic French duo’s comeback. Pet Shop Boys might not actually have the talents of Giorgio Moroder on board, but the throbbing glitterball of electro that is opener “Axis” has the Italian’s signature all over it, while a typically cocksure guest rap from Example on obvious single “Thursday” proves that Tennant and Lowe share a similar taste in unlikely collaborators.
But despite the fact that Pet Shop Boys are a generation removed from Daft Punk, Electric is actually a much more thrilling affair than Random Access Memories. Indeed, it’s the hypnotic and euphoric sounds of the late 80s acid house movement, rather than the tasteful 70s disco era, that are celebrated here, most notably on the blissfully nostalgic closer “Vocal.”
Admittedly, the likes of “Bolshy” and “Fluorescent” sound more like meandering remixes than fully-formed songs, while “Shouting In The Evening” is a wholly misguided venture into EDM. But overall, the pair manage to embrace this full-throttle return to the club scene without sacrificing their unique sense of playfulness.
“Love Is A Bourgeois Construct” is surely the only four-to-the-floor anthem which would have the gall to throw in a male choir, a throwaway reference to Karl Marx and a Michael Nyman sample. And although fans of Bruce Springsteen might disagree, the duo’s transformation of his Magic album cut “The Last To Die” from a driving slice of heartland rock into a fully-fledged electro-pop banger is a sound to behold.
Pet Shop Boys recently admitted that Electric was a reaction to a negative iTunes review of their previous record which demanded ‘more banging and lasers.’ The critic in question should be much more satisfied this time around.