Welcome Back, Pet Shop Boys

Last year I did something I haven’t done in… well, actually, something I’ve never done. Which was to not buy the new Pet Shop Boys album. Yep, I’ve got every single studio and remix album dating back to their 1986 debut, Please. Of course the group’s heyday was in the late 1980s but I’ve liked all their albums since then, though certainly some (1996’s Bilingual) were better than others (2006’s Fundamental). Some of the recent singles such as “Love, etc.” (2009) and “Miracles” (2003) were among their best ever.

But when I sampled 2012’s Elysium, I was completely underwhelmed. Lots of slow and atmospheric songs that also veered more than typical into “theatrical” style. The songs were not that catchy (which is bad for a pop group). So last Fall, for the first time ever, I didn’t buy the album or even the singles.

I think I might not have been alone because not too long after the release, the Pet Shop Boys announced they would be releasing a new album in summer 2013. After nearly two decades of three or four year gaps between albums, the group would release a new album less than year after their last one. Unprecedented.   (In an interesting aside, No Doubt is following the same plan by going back into the studio after their 2012 album wasn’t well received).

Would the group change tactics for this new album? Well, the album name is Electric, which bodes well for those of us who’ve always preferred the strong dance material to the slower ballads. The first track to be released is an outstanding club track called “Axis.” There’s not a lot of lyrical content there, though it’s always special when keyboardist Chris Lowe makes a rare appearance with vocals (as with most cases, processed vocals). Musically, and visually in the video, this song says to their electronic fans, “we’re back.” It has guys dancing with bull heads! Amazing.

Even better is the second single, “Vocal.”  This is a more traditional pop song but still has a energetic beat. For longtime Pet Heads, it’ll remind you both lyrically and musically of 1989’s underrated single “It’s Alright.”  Hopeful, optimistic, and a song you can dance to. Great stuff.

Electric comes out in July. I’ll be buying it.

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