2 April 2016
Pet Shop Boys - Super
April the 1st 2016 has been an immense day for records being released, I am trying to work my way through them as fast as I can! You have new stuff from Cold Summer, Weezer, Yeasayer and the brilliant Pet Shop Boys! This review will focus on that glorious pop/electronic duo who won my heart in my formative years, just to break it so beautifully with 'Behaviour' (our review of this masterpiece is cleverly linked here). They have always made interesting music, sometimes it works for me and sometimes I am not too sure; but they are always creating and that is something I admire them for (as well as anyone who has the balls to make music). This is there 13th studio album, following on from 'Electric' in 2013; the band have been making some waves before this album was released with their surprise announcement in January of the forthcoming album, as well as their upcoming performances as a four piece at the Royal Opera House, London in July this year. It has also been a release which me and Mr "I will only review metal" Chris Jermyn both wanted to review, guess who won! I have been awaiting this album with interest, now it is time to see if it can live up to its title.
"Happiness" is the first song, I have to admit that I am not too keen on the hook for this one; it is designed to be catchy and it certainly achieves this with a line that burrows itself into your heart to the point where you might find yourself singing it out loud at work, maybe in a quite office (I cannot confirm or deny this is what happened to me). But it is a hook that does not match the beautiful electronica/house music that makes up the best percentage of this song. The music is truly for the club scene and I reckon it will be a floor filler, no matter what type of club it is played in - but that hook does not do it for me, if you like it then good for you. "The Pop Kids" is a song that brings to mind 'Behaviour' as it describes the tale of a couple who loved pop music and each other whilst studying at university in the 90's. It has that melancholic theme going through it, with a hi-NRG twist to the song so it does not repeat "Being Boring". Being the first single off the album, it does seem a little too obvious for a single, especially considering the other tracks on the album that follow, However, it gives their reflective natures a new set of clothes, making everything shiny and the facelift to the music is really good. "Twenty Something" is the third song off the album and I am wondering if there is a crisis of sorts happening in the band, with the last few songs having a youthful tone to them. This one is mixed with a hint of sarcasm in my mind, it seems to be questioning a twenty something who things they know everything and obviously with age we all know this is not true. The music is a mixture of Divine Comedy with the usual brilliance of Chris Lowe and it feels like a very special song, but I am hearing a lot of anger in this song tampered with heartfelt advice as well.
"Groovy" reminds me of "It's Alright" from the opening keyboards and it does not stop there when the song kicks in for me either. It has a lot of style going on, with a bassline that pulses like a heartbeat and a sense that the night is still young. The main hook reminds me a bit of "New York City Boy" from their 'Nightlife' album and it has the house vibe going on as well, it is one of those moments that will be great in any environment and should be one of their next singles. "The Dictator Decides" is a dark moment about the life of a dictator and how he is tired with everything that is going on, it is spoken more than sung with a sense of irony thrown into the mix. I love this side of the band, they can make songs to make the night fly by and then they can be so serious and insightful - the last two songs perfectly show these aspects of the band, with this break in the hi-NRG being most welcome. Following this is "Pazzo!" which is a mostly instrumental piece of music for the listener to lose their thoughts, place and if the mood is right - their collective shit as they dance like the fire is below their feet. The bass is the most important piece to this song, driving it forward as the synths drive the collective patterns into your mind with pin point perfection. It is over a shade too soon for me, I would love to hear a 12" remix of this song that explores the themes of the song further. Till then, it is just a great way to mark the halfway point of this album.
"Inner Sanctum" starts off the second half of this album with a hint of Jean Michel Jarre added to the mix here, a splash of William Orbit and a generous portion of Pet Shop Boys to bring up their top game with this song. It was the first to be released as a teaser when the album was announced, it was a song which even in snippets made me excited for the new album. The whole song is just as glorious and makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, it is a euphoric moment and it makes you feel full of energy and positivity that I cannot think of a better track to name song of the album. "Undertow" is not a cover of the Tool song (although I would pay good money to see that happen), but it is another slice of electronic pop to get the energy going. To be honest, much like "Happiness" there is something about it that is not sitting right with me to be honest, it just reminds me a bit too much of "Was It Worth It?"; that was another song that I appreciate more than love, so I will skip on to the next song if that is ok... The next tune is called "Sad Robot World" which is another slow moment to this record, placing on the audience a strange and beautifully sorrowful moment. It is a beautiful story about being shunned and how a robotic world would appear, obviously it is a story to match modern society and the way that the world is heading, where we are expected to be perfect all the time without emotion, freedom or hope. It is such a sad and mournful song, with a beautiful story, glorious music and heartbreak fused into every note and beat of the song.
"Say It to Me" brings the energy back to the album in a fashion, but it is not the hi-NRG that was painted in the earlier sections of the album. It is a love letter to a lover who is in the mind’s eye of the Mr Tennant, or even in the mind’s eye of the listener as well, it is actually a great piece of pop that is clothed in some deep house to make the club hit the floor as faster than a Ferrari can reach 100 miles an hour. I love the 80's fade out at the end of the song, just a subtle touch that you do not hear too much these days. This leads onto the penultimate song of the record called "Burn", this was soooo close to being crowned the best song of the album! It is one of the best pieces of music that Mr Lowe and Tennant have ever committed to audio, such a shame in a way it is on the same album as "Inner Sanctum". It has the hi-NRG which has been the main portion of the album and will really go down a storm live, it has as much energy and grace as anything by Above & Beyond and all that crowd; with the extra bonus that is Mr Tennant singing over it, it is such a great song that makes the world a much better place just for being in it! But we have one more track to go, it is a song called "Into Thin Air" which has a serious message tied into the song, it has a chill-out, come down vibe to the music as if the band are wanting to help the audience back into the real world after the forty-five minutes of high quality pop/house/electronica. However, when you compare it to other endings from previous Pet Shop Boys albums, it is not as glorious as "Jealousy" or "Go West" (just to name two) yet it seems to be a fitting end to this record.
I think it is safe to say that I have enjoyed this album, it is full over energy, positive messages, sarcasm and some fantastic music to which translate into some of the best music I have heard from them in a long time. It is deeper into club music than I have heard from them, but they have always had that side to them. I am not too sure if there is a little bit of a darker meaning behind some of the songs, but I always feel that I should take them on face value and just as glorious pop gems. There are a few moments where it threatens to fall south, but it would not be a pop album without a few fillers if I am honest. This is one of the best Pet Shop Boys albums I have heard in such a long time, it might not reach 'Behaviour' level, but it is still one of the catchiest albums so far in 2015.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart.
Top track - Inner Sanctum
You can purchase Super from Amazon here.
You can visit the Pet Shop Boys website here (which also has links for other places where you can purchase the album).
You can follow the activities of the Pet Shop Boys on Facebook here.
You can stream Super on Spotify here.
You can stream Super on Deezer here.
You can stream Super on Tidal here.
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