Pet Shop Boys - Elysium
- By Ismail Mulla -
- Sep 17, 2012
There are certain bands that fall into the underrated category and then there are those that fall into the overrated end of the spectrum, the rest of them fall into various shades of grey in between.
But the Pet Shop Boys seem to fall bang into the middle, praises are sang of the duo, but never to the point where you’d think that they’d invented the wheel or discovered sliced bread. Their role in the formation of the synth-driven pop music landscape in the mid-80s is irrefutable. Their evolution with the help of Harold Faltermeyer on 'Behaviour' was undeniably the sign of a stayer and here we are over 26 years on and album number 11.
This longevity is down to the duo’s dry wit, and there is no shortage of that on 'Elysium'. The irony pouring from their formative outings 'Please and Actually' accidentally provided the retrospective soundtrack to Thatcherism.
'Ego Music' sees Tennant playfully taking on the egotistical role of a self-centred musician, bringing in some of the original primitive bleeps of yesteryear. The song chides against pretentiousness of certain artists who take themselves a tad too seriously. It’s a risqué number as the mocking is unequivocal.
'Elysium' floats effortlessly in parts as Neil Tennant’s vocals gently glide alongside the veracious soundscape, such as album opener Leaving. It’s atmospheric, but not in a taxing Brian Eno way. Having said that there are places in the album where it feels like both Lowe and Tennant are just not in sync such as on 'Hold On'.
The biggest issue with 'Elysium' is that it feels like the duo are on auto-pilot. There isn’t any real punch. It’s not a case of a lack of variety, there is enough subtlety in the composition and the song writing still has the snap. But maybe the band might be well served going back into their back catalogue and listening to the synth heavy sounds of the days when Tennant had a full head of hair.
The insipid 'Winner' is less so a gold, more so a bronze medallist. The song designed to accompany montages of Olympic heroism isn’t clichéd cash in, but it does give off the odour of being so.
And there are inflections that Lowe has incorporated from previous albums, but they’re used safely in a sparing manner. They need to be bolder something acknowledged by the fact that they enlisted Andrew Dawson (who has worked with Kanye West) as a producer.
'Your Early Stuff' is a self-deprecating nod towards their own back catalogue, but frankly it would be nice to see them embrace it more. As for being bold with the choice of producer, maybe someone at Parlophone can put the duo in touch with Jamie Smith of a little known band called The xx.
The Pet Shop Boys are at a stage where a place in 'Elysium' is guaranteed, but this album won’t be one of the reasons for them being there.
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