Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: Parlophone
Genre(s): Dance-Pop, Alternative Dance
Pop's elder statesmen Pet Shop Boys pare things back on their 11th studio album, a collection of lustrous and reflective mid-tempo jams peppered with Neil Tennant's and Chris Lowe's signature wit. The Boys worked with producer Andrew Dawson after listening to Kanye West's previous two solo albums, and the result is one of their most serene and sonically consistent efforts to date. Unlike many of their younger pop contemporaries, PSB are ambitious in their songwriting inspiration, revelling in fleeting emotions and avoiding the makeup/breakup subject matter that's so oppressively ubiquitous.
Although still never ones to shy away from the overblown, it would seem that a slight wistfulness has come upon Britain’s premier conically-hatted synth poppers of late. Pet Shop Boys’ latest record, named after a space in Greek mythology where select mortals would spend the afterlife, seems like an almost subdued affair by Neal Tennant and Chris Lowe’s normal standards. However the theatre, wit, pomp and bombast still remain firmly, and reassuringly, intact.
The Pet Shop Boys are considered the best-selling, most successful pop act in U.K. history. They’re living legends—their myriad dance-pop albums, a fresh release cropping up every couple years, that cycle through easily palatable, unvarying melodic tropes like so many Abba records, continually do well in the British charts. When grumps sit around and complain about the new-new Morrissey album or the latest offering from another aging U.K.
Besides being mostly midtempo and mostly mid-temperature, Pet Shop Boys' 11th studio album is an oddly structured effort, giving up its theme during track number four, a seemingly throwaway, two-and-a-half-minute ditty called "Your Early Stuff. " They may be dashing, tasteful pop craftsmen to their fans, but Elysium's prime number finds them pre-gig and stuck with a cabbie who sees this duo as A Flock of Seagulls-styled nostalgic fluff, where haircuts and videos are discussed before anyone remembers the song was called "West End Girls. " Good news, because PSB's catty moments are some of their most delicious, and while the fine "Ego Music" ("In the sea of negativity/I'm the Statue of Liberty/That's why people love me/It's humbling") balances bliss and spite with the grace of their 1991 single "How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?," feeling prickly is out of fashion when the Olympics come to town, and this is the Pet Shop Boys album with their Olympic single "Winner.
For their 11th album the Pet Shop Boys recorded in the US with Kanye West's producer, Andrew Dawson, but the results don't sound radically different to the previous 10 albums, Chris Lowe's elegant synthscapes still underpinning Neil Tennant's sardonic, semi-spoken delivery. Highlights include the genuinely funny self-deprecation of Your Early Stuff and the barbed Ego Music, with Lady Gaga seemingly squarely in Tennant's sights. Cheesy recent single Winner, however, is just too brazen in its pitch to accompany slow-motion Olympics highlights packages,, and elsewhere they're on autopilot too often for this to be anything more than just another solid Pet Shop Boys album.
“I still like some of your early stuff”, deadpans Neil Tennant on ‘Your Early Stuff’, an oddly apt sentiment since ‘West End Girls’ jumped back into the charts after the PSBs’ appearance at the Olympics closing ceremony. But their introspective, mainly mid-tempo 11th album is a massive foamy middle-finger to retromania, running elegantly from jangly indie to kraut jabs. ‘Invisible’ movingly vocalises old-age invisibility, and despite an eye-rolling critique of the ‘state of pop’ in ‘Ego Music’, they’re saved by the excellent ‘A Face Like That’, a bolshy dancefloor jam that sounds like, and is truly as good as, their early stuff.Owen Myers .
If pop had an elysium – an afterlife for its heroes – the Pet Shop Boys would surely be promised a place. Their 11th album is a peculiar listen, though. Half of it harks back to 1990's reflective masterpiece, Behaviour, with songs about ageing (Invisible) and escape (Breathing Space) exerting poignant pulls. Leaving is even better, a Balearic epic that just happens to be about death and "the context it provides".
Elysium, the new album from Pet Shop Boys, maintains the British duo’s tradition of single-word album titles. A similar economic approach flows through this precise and neatly packaged 12-song collection. Conspiracy theorists may have fun with the album title. Is the band ready to take up metaphorical residence in the Elysian Fields and call it a day? Or are they already spiritually there — national treasures rewarded with a golden ticket to carry on making music for gods to groove to? Pragmatists will point out that LA’s Elysian Park is close to where the duo recorded the album with hip-hop producer Andrew Dawson.
When the Pet Shop Boys made their appearance at the closing ceremonies for this year's Olympics, they were as marvelous as they've ever been, in their spectacle-that-punctures-the-spectacle way: a reliable part of the English firmament, like a more tuneful Gilbert & George in better outfits. They were trotting out a truncated bit of "West End Girls", now 28 years old, whilst on the cusp of releasing their eleventh studio album, Elysium. The videos for new songs "Invisible" and "Winner", are elegantly conceived and executed, and so is the packaging associated with the record and its singles.
In 1987, Pet Shop Boys released their sophomore album, Actually. Its cover featured keyboardist Chris Lowe looking nonplussed, while vocalist/keyboardist Neil Tennant yawned into the camera.LINK The duo were wearing tuxedos, and the photo was a droll swipe at the insipid state of the pop/rock establishment at the time. Or, combined with the phrase “Pet Shop Boys, actually” as it appeared on the cover, it was Tennant’s and Lowe’s ironic attempt to downplay their massive success.
This 11th studio album could be the pop pair’s warmest and wisest yet. Nick Levine 2012 There's still no one else quite like the Pet Shop Boys. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe performed at the 2012 Olympic Games’ closing ceremony wearing conical hats that made them look like electro-pop sorcerers. Now, they’ve named their 11th album Elysium – the place the ancient Greeks sent their Gods for a blissful afterlife.