Saturday, July 27, 2013

Album Review: "Electric" by Pet Shop Boys


Pet Shop Boys have been consistently putting out albums since 1986, although most Americans who even recognize the name tend to think of them as the one-hit wonder band that gave us "West End Girls." But they have certainly done much more, and Electric is a testament to what a good band they truly are. Almost twenty years after the band's inception, and they are still putting out music that is fresh and relevant with heavy helpings of artistic integrity.

Electric opens with "Axis," a track which introduces the sound and overall feel of the album. Although "Axis" contains some 80s sounds reminiscent of when the band began, it sounds more like the pseudo 80s that is so popular now. This type of modern but nostalgic sound continues consistently throughout the album.

"Bolshy" is a dance-sounding track (another theme with this album), followed by what seems to me is the most sale-able single from the album, "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct." "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct" opens with an instrumental that falls somewhere between the dance sound of the album and a pop baroque featuring a harpsichord sound reminiscent of some Vampire Weekend. The lyrics are artfully crafted, and paint the picture of a man who has given up on love following a breakup. I don't think they could have picked a better single for the album, and it truly is both a great pop and dance tune. The entire piece is incredibly polished, and owes a good deal to both its writer and producer.

Following "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct," the sound of the album takes a slightly darker turn. "Florescent" is a solid track, although there's nothing particularly notable about it. "Inside a Dream" seemed to be the low point of the album, although it's still not a bad song, just not incredibly good.

The biggest surprise on the album is "The Last To Die," which is actually a cover of a Bruce Springsteen track from Magic. Pet Shop Boys do such a great job of owning the song, I never would have identified it as a cover. It is a beautiful cover of a very poetic and haunting tune that I can imagine being used in a zombie film. "The Last To Die" is a reference to a John Kerry quote regarding the Vietnam war: "...how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

"Shouting in the Evening" is a heavily synthesized tune which is the shortest on the album. It turns into "Thursday" almost before you realize it. "Thursday" is a brilliant pop tune, and probably the best song on the album after "Love is a Bourgeois Construct." It also contains the Pet Shop Boys chanting style reminiscent of  the chorus in "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" Toward the end of the song, Example does a little rapping, transforming the song into something not unlike a Mark Ronson and the Business International track.

The album closes with another very strong piece, "Vocal," which was featured in Youtube ads for the album. "Vocal" is almost an ode to clubbing, but more importantly, an ode to music, and how it relates to mood. "Vocal" is positive and upbeat in a way most songs do not dare to be.

Electric is one of the best albums I've heard lately by a band that isn't one I'm gaga over. Much like They Might Be Giants Nanobots, Pet Shop Boys have taken the things that they are known for (electronic music innovation) and continued to grow and develop so that the age of the band is unrelated to the relevance of their music. I feel like Electric does what Random Access Memories by Daft Punk could have done. Electric doesn't try too hard, but it also doesn't rely on old material to convince buyers it will be good. Too many bands entering their second or third decade are busy trying to convince listeners that they are still young and talented and forget to actually be good (I love you B-52's, but this means you). If you're looking for something with a touch of 80s a heavy scoop of dance feel, I recommend you check this album out.


Pet Shop Boys are an English electronic pop duo.

Electric can be purchased here.

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