By James Iles Wednesday 05 September 2012 Updated: 05/09 11:42
Pet Shop Boys 'Elysium'
Released Monday, September 10
PET Shop Boys' superb 11th studio album is a melancholy and reflective affair but with an overall sense of hope.
Lyrically it's truer and more sincere than their previous offering, 2009's Yes, the Xenomania co-produced popfest and all the better for it.
Recorded in LA with Kanye West engineer Andrew Dawson as co-producer, the partnership clicks very well. There is no rapping as such but subtle great attention to detail and it features uplifting backing vocals from The Jackson Five's singers.
Fans will feel it has a similar mood to 1990's Behaviour especially with its beautiful strings and warm, deep electronic sound.
Opening, ironically, with 'Leaving' (their next single) Tennant sings 'I can still find some hope to believe in love' setting the tone of ultimate optimism that pervades the album.
Now in their 50s, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe tackle their own position in the life cycle and perhaps their chart careers with tracks like Invisible where Tennant observes 'After being for so many years, the life and soul of the party it's weird, I'm invisible'.
The cutting comments of London cabbies too are noted in 'Your Early Stuff' which makes playful reference to the fact that many may be surprised to learn they are still around (and relevant) today!
Talking of early stuff, it's 25 years since 'Actually' came out and the excellent 'Face Like That' could easily have earned a place on that seminal album with its synth brass riffs and chunky bass sounds.
'Ego Music' is a great dig at the vacuous and shallow self-centred and frankly lightweight pop stars of our X Factor-tainted musical landscape.
This spooky sounding up tempo track moves cleverly into 'Hold On', a Broadway-esque anthem for the recession, where the American backing singers come to the fore. It's a really uplifting song, based on a piece by Handel, and could be straight out of a musical.
'Memory of the Future' has a brilliant hook and stomping Eurobeat to it making it instantly likeable, whereas 'Breathing Space' is more of a grower.
Closing with 'Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin', apparently a song about make-up artist Lynne Easton's funeral, Tennant sings of a last chance for goodbye at a colourful farewell party.
This would be a great song to finish it all on but thankfully Elysium proves they have still got the knack and the appetite for greatness.
Also including lead-in single 'Winner' which never got the BBC Olympics montage it was crying out for despite its timely release, this is a masterclass in witty and intelligent songwriting from the PSB.
They're never going to recapture the youthful energy of their early hit singles as they are now in their the autumn of their lives and while the radio may ignore them Elysium, a reference to the Greek mythological afterlife, shows life after 'death' may just be something to look forward to.
Petheads are already in heaven knowing Neil and Chris are already working on the follow-up album and have a world tour planned for next year. I for one, can't wait.
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