Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? After three decades in the music business it looks like Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe decided to change a few things in the year 2013. The two elder statesmen of synthie-pop – better known as Britain’s most valuable pop duo PET SHOP BOYS – not only parted ways with their label Parlophone after 28 years. They are also about to do something they haven’t done since their early successful days in the 1980s – releasing two albums in two years. Electric arrives only ten months after Elysium and it couldn’t separate itself any better from its predecessor. While 2012’s album dedicated itself to the introspective beauty of tender melodies and the problems of getting older, the follow-up is a banging concept record that works as a tribute to the dancefloor. It’s a pure club record, breaking with the usual concept of a typical PET SHOP BOYS album although it clearly is one. Expect the familiar unexpected on Electric.
With only nine songs, no ballads and two almost instrumental tracks Electric has not that much to do with their previous albums. Star producer, long time friend and fan of the band – Stuart Price – took care of the production. With the lack of time in-between releasing Elysium and starting their epic world tour you can sense the spontaneous hunger of risk within all these songs. The opener Axis already shows us what to expect – banging beats and eccentric electronic sounds. Tennant’s voice is only a vague sample and it soon becomes clear – this album is dedicated to the beat, Tennant and Lowe are only there to follow its flow.
Price – who took huge inspirations from the band’s 1986 remix album Disco – really understood how to combine the structure of modern day high quality club music with the PET SHOP BOYS unique ability to create wonderful melodies and great lyrics. The second track Bolshy already unfolds tight and deep club magic and almost reminds at early TRENTEMØLLER material. The following Love Is A Bourgeois Construct on the other side is PET SHOP BOYS at their best, just striking another irresistible moment of electronic pop music. Tennant acts as a sarcastic and frustrated intellectual ignorant who gave up on love because, well… laziness, it seems. Songs like this are supposed to be on top of the global charts. They won’t but it looks like the two gentleman already embraced that fact a while ago. They don’t need to prove anything. The only proof of Electric might be that they are still able – especially with the help of Price – to create contemporary club tunes. Who would have thought this?
Sticking to the concept and freeing themselves from expectations of a big major label Electric is full of fine surprises. Easy floating and grooving club bangers like Fluorescent or Inside A Dream are classical PET SHOP BOYS material while Shouting In The Evening might be the noisiest and most experimental tune they’ve done for a while. Hell yeah, there is even room for an epic cover BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s Last To Die. This clearly is a fun record although one the band takes quite seriously – as always.
And within that new creativity there is still space for new evergreens. Thursday, a collaboration with hyped British singer EXAMPLE, is a clear reference to the smooth 80s days of the duo while the closing track Vocal is euphoric extravaganza at its best. Who would have thought the PET SHOP BOYS are capable of creating such a high energy piece of trance-influenced EDM-pop thirty years into their career? “This is my kind of music / they play it all night long” – and you are willing to believe Tennant as he whispers these tender words into your ear while standing in the middle of a stroboscope-flooded dancefloor. A man in his fifties is celebrating youth as his band is embracing a fresh form of creative freedom. The end is not yet in sight and this might be the greatest message surrounding this quite unusual new record.