Sunday, April 17, 2016

Album Review: Pet Shop Boys - Super (2016)

Damn you, Pet Shop Boys. With your superficial gloss and flash bombastic hooks. And damn my insomnia. With the annoying "and they called us the pop kids" refrain/chorus (from PSB's latest cheesy single) repeating itself mercilessly over and over in my head all throughout the night.

Where’s the humanity?

'The Pop Kids' is the first offering from Super, album number 13 from the Pet Shop Boys. Super also happens to be the duo's 13th consecutive studio album with a one-word title. As things stand, a couple of listens in - and I'm not sure I can bear another - it really doesn't appeal as being particularly super. Quite the opposite.

I know I'm not supposed to take this stuff too seriously. It's shameless pop and PSB haven't been relevant on any "serious" level for at least a quarter of a century. If they ever were at all. I'm not even really sure why I picked this one up. Seduced perhaps by the ever-so-slight return to form that was 2013's Electric, which at least contained the wonderful 'Fluorescent'. There's nothing quite so mitigating here, despite Stuart Price again being on production duties.

All the usual themes abound - nights out (not least on the aforementioned 'The Pop Kids'), relationships, reflections on a distant youth etc. But mostly this becomes an exercise in self-parody, and where you could once rely on PSB to throw up a requisite quota of clever irony or amusing lyrics, even that is no longer guaranteed. It's perhaps telling that the best thing on Super is the track which contains the least number of words or lyrics (and/or therefore vocals), a retro club banger called 'Inner Sanctum' - and even that's a gigantic slab of cheddar.

Sample lyric, on 'Burn':

… "all the stars are flashing high above the sea, and the party is on fire around you and me, we're gonna burn this disco down before the morning comes (repeat three times) .... it feels so good (repeat four times)" ...

Really? Yawn. All hooks aside, I'm not convinced it does actually feel all that good anymore … and did the world really need yet another song about burning down the disco? (cliché much?)

If Electric was indeed the return to form it was touted to be at the time, then it was surely only a temporary condition, and Super has the duo slipping back into a form of auto-pilot, back to type, with irrelevant lightweight fluff very much the order of the day.

In my review for Electric I wrote about my own deteriorating relationship with the duo’s music over the years, concluding that I was a very conditional and still only occasional “fan”, but Super takes things to a new low, and this time out I fear our differences have finally become irreconcilable.
Here's 'Inner Sanctum' ...

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