When we last heard from the Pet Shop Boys, we were treated to an electronic masterpiece in the form of Electric. It is hard to believe that almost 3 years has elapsed since that masterpiece of an album. Super once again finds Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe working with producer Stuart Price. In fact, this album is being called the 2nd in a planned trilogy with Price. To that end, Super continues with the club ready anthems re-established on Electric whist dropping most of the melancholy found on 2012’s Elysium. At this stage in their career – 30+ years, 13th studio album – I think it is fair to ask if the Pet Shop Boys have anything left to say. Super answers this conclusively – yes they do.
2012’s record Elysium by the The Pet Shop Boys sparked reviews that varied in tone and critique. It was sometimes mentioned as beautifully autumnal and sad but also criticized as sounding tired and slightly bitter (often within the same review) – for me it was a record that grew in stature with each listen. I mentioned in my review that it was “not quite a masterpiece, but has some very special, very Pet Shop Boys moments.” I stand by that statement, 9 months later. I will say that one of the singles from that record – “Leaving” – stands as one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs of all time – a perfect embodiment of melancholy and hope. Historical revisionism is a curious thing and appears to be alive and well with the release of the latest Pet Shop Boys record, Electric. It is easy to fall into that trap when faced with a record that is a masterpiece because everything that immediately preceded its release seems dull in comparison. So it goes with the Pet Shop Boys in 2013. I loved last years record, but it couldn’t prepare me for the non-stop delight that is Electric.
The past is always with us – for better or worse. Collectively, our highs and lows have brought us to where we are now – or what is known as “the present”. For recording artists (that sounds old-fashioned doesn’t it?), that can be a daunting proposition. The Pet Shop Boys have been huge stars in the UK and Europe for all of their 25+ year career. In the United States it has been a very different story. Despite a rapid fan base willing to buy each release (guilty as charged) their commercial prospects have been on a downward trajectory since 1993’s Very (some would argue it began even earlier). Creatively, however, the duo have been very consistent and churn out electro-pop masterpieces every 18 to 24 months.