samedi 4 avril 2009

YES! the real Pet Shop Boys are coming back !

YES, the Pet Shop Boys are back in town and this time, there's no acoustic pop-rock or trendy electronica, it's all about pop music like they used to do and like their fanbase like them to be.
Yes, is the name of their tenth studio album and it is also available in a double CD limited edition titled Yes, Pet Shop Boys etc., the etc. bonus CD including a bonus track featuring Phillip Oakey of the Human League and 6 dub versions of some of the album songs.

The album has been completely produced by Brian Higgins & his Xenomania team (of Girls Aloud UK fame, whose single The loving kind has been co-written by the Pet Shop Boys while recording their album) and latest big producing sensation of last years. They co-wrote 3 out of the 11+1 songs of the album so you don't really hear their usual song signature but they've managed to make the duo sound himself as well as up-to-date. The goal for this new album is clearly to appeal to the masses like their poptastic album of 1993 Very did.

The lead-off single, Love etc., is one of the 3 collaborations and is a bouncy uptempo with repetitive rhythm and galoping melody, with a Xenomania verses/chorus typical trademark. The boys' real work was on the lyrics, meaning superficial lifestyle and never satisfied people are missing the real thing, love. Although odd in style, this single is a perfect introduction to their comeback album and a memorable anthem for sure.

Following track, All over the world, was featured in their Brits award TV show's medley so could easily become a single too. Including a Tchaikovsky theme melodic line, it is another pop anthem with memorable chorus.

Beautiful people cools things down a little, being a classic PSB mid-tempo all with brass & strings, the boys wanted to feature in the soundtrack of the UK TV Series of the same name. It reminds me of some of their previous work but I can't think of which ones. Classic would sum it up. Noticeable is Johnny Marr's guitar and harmonica on this one.

His guitar is back on board as soon as the intro of Did you see me coming? starts but it all fades into the pop perfection of this sure-to-be the next single (I hope so). It has it all, with the title phrase being the lead chorus line you cannot get out of your head after only one listen... It has HIT written all over it!

Another memorable song perfection in the classic PSB territory, but the melancholic & mid-tempo one a la Being boring, Vulnerable is another single potential song on this album, but aren't they all ? Clocking at 4'47, the song would only need a little editing to fit radio formats and it wouldn't sound bad to have some vulnerable lines cut, the title word being far too repetitive all in all in the whole song for my taste.

More than a dream is the second Xenomania co-written song included and has a strong melody and arrangements, anthemic lyrics and uplifting choruses in perfect Xenomania style ; another highlight of the album for sure and in my heart. I believe we can change, we can make it more than a dream it goes and this song particularly makes me think of what the Boys said about the inspiration for this Yes album, the Obama Yes, we can! campaign. This optimistic song sums it all and should appeal to US audience even more.

Then comes Building a wall. Johnny Marr's guitar is once again featured on this upbeat song that see Chris shouting back to Neil some lines with more narrative parts too, that talks about being reclusive more than excluding. A fine album track.

I have the same déjà vu feeling for King of Rome I had about Beautiful people, and even more. It sounds like Dreaming of the Queen, Part 2, all laidback and breezy. It apparently refers to Napoleon's son (...?) and is a nice classic PSB mid-tempo, nothing new but nothing bad (except maybe its length, 5'31, a little long compared to the usual 3'30 length of the other pop numbers).

Next track, Pandemonium is another single must-be, all dance-pop at its best, uplifting, with electronical arrangement, memorable Wooo hooooo choir line, scanding rhythm and even bits of harmonica. This song inspired by the love/hate lovestory of Kate Moss & Pete Doherty was meant for Kylie Minogue but she apparently thought it wasn't for her. Although I like her too, I think it suits PSB's style more than hers. It was even at some stages supposed to give its name to the whole album. It would have sounded good as an album name too, but The Time already used this in 1990.

Then comes another perfect addictive track (again!), The way it used to be. It si the third Xenomania collaboration but it sounds more classic PSB than for the previous other two. All melancholic but upbeat, I would love to see it released as a single too. But That means more than half the album would be so I woudln't want to be in the place of the Boys and their record company to decide which song is going to eb released as 2nd and 3rd single. More could be too but that isn't the pace nowadays... In final, I'd say this is the song I like the most on the album, Pet Shop Boys at their best but modern.

The album is ending with an epic and orchestral 6'21 final song called Legacy. The song is not really memorable, only the lines You'll get over it stay in mind. It is all about being musically experimental here, I think. It would have suited best a B-side to me... The only let-down of the album but a bad one as it is the last track.
Thankfully, I've bought the limited edition and I've got a second CD to put in my player.

After some atmospherical intro bits, This used to be the future really starts with electronical noises & keyboards, to pay tribute to 80's coldwave a la Gary Numan, Erasure & Human League I think. This song is all retro sounding with Chris & his vocoder back on board (like in the days of Paninero) before Human league's leader Phillip Oakey comes & share the mic too. It wouldn't have found its place on the Yes tracklisting so it sounds better to have it aside opening the etc. CD.

The other tracks are Dub versions by Xenomania with or without the Boys of More than a dream, Pandemonium, The way it used to be, All over the world, Vulnerable and Love etc. These versions take the songs more into the Club sounds than the initial Pop but they stay poptastic with still vocals included. It reminds me of Relentless, the bonus disc for Very, but it was all unreleased songs there, not just remixes so I would have prefered more bonus new songs but these dub versions are fine though. That bonus tracklisting makes me think that songs that don't appear have less chances to become singles as it partly includes best potential ones for sure and it leaves me regreting Did you see me coming? hasn't been remixed there...

Just a few words on the Love, etc. B-sides. The Pet Shop Boys have always given their fans extra tracks displayed on singles formats and this time like always : First, there's We're all criminals that, despite its lyrics, is a breezy sing-a-long song I would have loved to see included on the album, then, there is Gin and jag, a darker and moody track. Both were completed and produced after the Xenomania recording sessions.

So What?
If you're a PSB fan, you already have ordered it so I'm sure it will soon & for long feature in you CD player,
If you're a PSB addict, you had pre-ordered the limited edition and you already know this new album by heart and it has entered your Top3 of PSB albums,
If you're curious about it, know and like some of PSB oldies and have been thinking Love etc. was a nice but odd piece of electronical pop, go for it, you won't be deceived !
Else, I'm afraid this wonderful piece of art will pass you by, just like all PSB albums since the Very era. Like Depeche Mode, Erasure and all thoses 80's synth-pop bands, nowadays, the Pet Shop boys only sell to their fanbase and hardly gain new fans. A real shame ! I can only their collaboration with Xenomania opens them a door to new recruits among the young generations that like Girls Aloud, Alesha Dixon, etc.

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