Release Date: Jan 24, 2020
Record label: X2
Genre(s): House, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Dance-Pop, Alternative Dance, Synth Pop, Dance-Rock
Pet Shop Boys resume their exceptional late-period run with Hotspot, their third in a series of high quality collaborations with producer/engineer Stuart Price. Recorded at Berlin's legendary Hansa Studios, the acclaimed duo's 14th album finds them firmly in their element, delivering crisp electro-pop invocations, wry dance bangers, and melodic gems both sunny and stormy. Still more or less in the self-described "electronic purist" mode of 2013's Electric and 2016's Super, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe make a few allowances here, particularly on the melancholic standout, "Burning the Heather," which features some crafty psych-inspired guitar work from Suede guitarist Bernard Butler.
Entering a remarkable fifth decade in pop, 'Hotspot' is Pet Shop Boys' 14th studio record and is the final part of a trilogy of records produced by electro pop whizz Stuart Price. The previous two installments 'Electric' and 'Super' were predominantly poppers o'clock banger filled sugar rushes but 'Hotspot' rounds things off with a lovingly crafted variety pick and mix of all the flavours that keep Pet Shop Boys at the top of their game. While the defining sound is electronic as ever, each track is coloured with a subtly different shade of electro giving a pleasingly diverse dynamic to the record.
The final part of the Stuart Price trilogy... By the end of their melodic, mid-tempo driven phase developed during the '00s up to 2012, Pet Shop Boys accumulated quite a weight on their shoulders that was dragging them down. They often sunk in introspective thoughts and political themes, while struggling to maintain their music fresh and interesting. Aging in the pop genre usually marks as a career end, being fazed by passing trends and younger artists, so the duo decided to shed those fears and just have fun again.
The third in a trilogy of Pet Shop Boys records produced by Stuart Price (Jacques Lu Cont, Thin White Duke, various other aliases and groups), Hotspot eschews the social commentary of Super, while being on the whole less clubby than Electric, making for a record of uptempo poppy tracks and introspective slow-burners that sometimes lacks coherence as an album but is mostly enjoyable regardless. The record starts on a high with Will-O-The-Wisp, a dance-pop tune about a chance encounter with an old flame - think The Pop Kids Pt. II.
The last in an officially described trilogy of albums (all of which, including 2013's Electric and 2016's Super, were produced by Stuart Price), Hotspot finds veteran synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys delivering another fine album, full of the usual class and wit that so many others have tried and failed to match. It's well within their comfort zone, and arguably the least essential of the three, but it's perhaps only because Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have released so many excellent and more artistically adventurous albums over the years that ….
For more than 35 years, Pet Shop Boys singer-keyboardist Neil Tennant has returned to a question of world-historic import: Do I stay in or do I go out? "Turn on the news, drink some tea/Maybe if you're with me we'll do some shopping" goes one couplet in 1988's "Left to My Own Devices. " Observing a teen on "I Don't Wanna," a song from Pet Shop Boys' 14th studio album Hotspot, Tennant sings with his usual starchy plaintiveness, "Feels so shy/He'd rather sit alone and cry/But no one understands this guy. " Pet Shop Boys do.
N eil Tennant has never been one to shy away from the issues, but during his 35 years as a cerebral pop operator, he has usually held them at arm's length, a Mona Lisa smile on his lips. This sangfroid cracked last year, when Pet Shop Boys released a political four-song EP about the breakdown of democracy. However satisfying it was to hear Tennant speaking more plainly, Hotspot - the band's 14th album - returns to more sophisticated ways.