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Pet Shop Boys


Release Date: 02.26.02
Record label: sony
Genre(s): Rock


Return to the West End
by: peter naldrett - uk correspondent

It was a brave move by the Pet Shop Boys to put out their new album on April Fools Day (April 23rd, US). It’s easy to criticise the aging pop duo, but however tempting it is to make April Fool wisecracks I can’t - because Release is no joke.

Four years after the pop-orientated Nightlife saw the Pets donning wigs in a mid-career crisis, Release sees them popping on their slippers and taking up their pipes in a very definite change of direction. With the help of ex-Smith Johnny Marr on guitar, this is a ten-song collection of mild-mannered muses that makes past albums Actually and Billingual look hyperactive.

The new single "Home And Dry" is one of their weaker releases and threatened a watered-down album that would not hold its own in the strong PSB back catalogue. Not so.

Release, though having a couple of weak spots that are inevitable now that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have gone slightly off the boil, is a quality CD that breeds the lyrical depth and musical excellence now so typical of this record-breaking duo.

So let’s get the nonsense out of the way first: "London" is terrible song that sounds like it’s been thrown together and has vocal effects covering up Tennant’s weakening high-notes, which is another poor feature of other Release tunes. "E-mail" sounds like it should have been penned by a 16-year-old art student and, as I said, "Home And Dry" should hang its head in shame.

But check out "I Get Along," which has the Pet Shop Boys sounding a little like The Beatles (strange, but true) and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say it’s one of the best songs they’ve ever put out. It’s a rousing anthem of independence and is an obvious choice for a single. "Birthday Boy" is a deep and moody analysis of Jesus and Stephen Lawrence. "The Samurai In Autumn" has few lyrics but is a brilliant demonstration of how their instrumental ability is as hot as ever.

Still, the quirkiest moment on Release is "The Night I Fell In Love," which turns Eminem’s homophobic lyrics on their head in a song that has a rap fan getting off with a homosexual rap star backstage.

Tennant explains: "I think if rap’s going to be provocative that you can be provocative back about it."

Release? Good Release, more like.27-Mar-2002 6:00 PM