Pet Shop Boys
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 02:09
The drifting techno-pop sound of English synthesizer stalwarts the Pet Shop Boys sounds like it’s been endlessly duplicated, but it actually hasn’t. The Boys’ songs have stood apart from the greater electro scene since “West End Girls” made their name almost three decades ago.
Elysium is the 16th Pet Shop Boys album, following experiments like an uneven ballet soundtrack and backing music for silent film classic Battleship Potemkin. All these years later, vocalist Neil Tennant still sounds boyish, almost cherubic in fact, and the instrumentation backing him is as pristine as ever.
Subtlety has rarely been the Boys’ domain; the annoying narrator of “Your Early Stuff” makes the song’s thesis on aging bands pretty clear when he sings, “What’s in it for you now/Need the money?” The Pet Shop Boys’ chilly sound fits perfectly with tales of longing and isolation, like the lovelorn “A Face Like That.” “Leaving,” with its dulcet synths and flaring drums is the most modern, liquid song on the album, and one of the best of the duo’s latter-day career.
But when the band tries to apply the formula to pop and cheer, they’re left with unlistenable tripe like “Winner” and “Hold On.” The miscalculation is noxious.
As the Boys memorably closed out the Olympics with “West End Girls,” Elysium closes with the gorgeous, fun “Requiem In Denim And Leopardskin.” Perhaps it doesn’t wash out the taste of the preceding garbage, but it does ensure the album stands tall with the group’s voluminous and surprisingly solid discography.