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CD: Pet Shop Boys - Elysium | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Pet Shop Boys - Elysium

CD: Pet Shop Boys - Elysium

The perennial electro-pop duo surprise with some new moves

Tennant and Lowe go all A Bigger Splash on us

Pet Shop Boys eleventh album leaps sideways into smooth, opulent US FM radio production in a way that will initially give long term fans palpitations. The duo sound… different. They recorded Elysium in Los Angeles with Grammy-winning Kanye West producer Andrew Dawson and it sounds that way too.

Here’s the thing, though, whether you like the results or not, Dawson pushes them somewhere new, albeit sometimes in directions that jar. A case in point would be the way the snappy “Ego Music”, which ruthlessly satirizes the portentous self-importance of certain rock stars, is wilfully followed by “Hold On”, an orchestral epic of gospel-style singing that sounds like the end of a musical and, after what came before, also comes across like a piss-take.

The overall tone is far from the ballsy electro-pop punch of, say, 2006’s Fundamental and more akin to the thoughtful melancholy of 1990s Behaviour, only this time often dipped in real old school easy-listening. The pair maintain a masterful ratio of lyrical pith to memorable tunes. “Leaving” states, “Your love is dead but the dead don’t go away,” while only Neil Tennant could get away with dismissively saying “Well, quite,” in the middle of a song, as he does on “Invisible”, a sad, enchanting cross between an AOR ballad and Vangelis circa Bladerunner. “Your Early Stuff” may be classic Pet Shop Boys, apparently drawn from things tax-drivers have said to the band over the years, and “Memory of the Future” is a gripping melodrama in the vein of their classic, “Casanova in Hell”, but we’re not used to Tennant telling us enthusiastically to “Give it a Go” over a perky accordion and triumphant strings.

Elysium is not an immediate album but it is an unexpectedly fresh one. Even the cover art, all white and glittering Californiona waters, is a break from the norm. Live with the album and it proves to be quietly classic, one that sneaks up and needs to be returned to when the mood strikes.

Watch the video for "Winner"

Producer Andrew Dawson pushes them somewhere new, albeit sometimes in directions that jar

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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