PET SHOP BOYS - CD
Sony Music International - Out now
The Pet Shop Boys are one of the great survivors of the 1980s. Since their debut in 1986, they have released a string of consistently great albums that have shunned trends, ignored fashions, and have been seemingly oblivious to changes in the music scene. Whilst many of their peers have tried to adapt and move in the general direction that the record labels wanted them to go, the Pet Shop Boys have never faltered or waived in their commitment to their own particular sounds and songs. So it should come as no surprise then that Hotspot, their fourteenth studio album, delivers exactly what you would expect and want.
Starting with the sound, I’d like to have a chat with the two Boys – Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe – about how they recorded this album because this could be right out of 1986. Neil’s voice is identical to 30+ years ago and Chris’s programming and sounds could have come from his old Korg or Fairlight keyboards. Strange to think that in 1986, their sounds was futuristic and now…well it’s still futuristic! The melody lines are catchy, the beats infectious, the production atmospheric with gorgeous layers that either float around your living room or smack your body giving your heart a helping hand – believe me, you can see your woofers move when this is cranked up.
I mentioned above that they have put out consistently good albums and whilst that is true, there are of course ones that are not as good as others. So, splitting the fourteen albums into two halves, I’d say this is in the top seven which in no way should deter you from buying it as even the album fourteenth – whatever you choose that to be - on that list is worth buying. This is a comfortable album; there’s no great risks taken and it has the handful of dance floor numbers for their fans and one thing I really love about it is that they have resisted the urge to fill out the disc with songs that are sub-standard. It clocks in at around 42 minutes which of course is where most 80s albums aimed for.
The bonus tracks for Japan are two remixes, again in the style of the 1980s when 12” mixes were all the rage. These two add an extra 14 minutes of music to that above running time so the extra investment is worth it. All in all then, an excellent follow up their two previous releases in 2013 and 2016 and with a Greatest Hits tour currently doing great business around the world, Neil and Chris look like they will be around for a long time yet.
You Are The One
Dreamland (featuring Years & Years)
Hoping For A Miracle
I Don’t Wanna
Only The Dark
Burning The Heather
Wedding In Berlin
Bonus Tracks for Japan
Dreamland (TWD vocal remix)
Monkey Business (Prins Thomas diskomiks)
H.E.R.O. - CD
Sony Music International - 1st April
This Danish trio made quite an impact in Japan with their debut album in 2019 and the accompanying single Superpowers was selected as a power play by radio stations nationwide. It was ranked No. 1 for four consecutive weeks on April's Radio On Air Chart for Western music. A fine start indeed to their career in Japan so the big question is then, can they follow it up with something as good and sustain their growth here? Judging by this release, the answer is yes.
For those of you who haven’t heard of them, H.E.R.O. are a fusion of catchy modern Pop vocals and Hard Rock/Heavy Rock instrumentation. On paper, that combination really shouldn’t work given that those two genres are on opposite sides of the music spectrum but their debut success proves there is an audience for it and the balance H.E.R.O. have achieved between those two is creditable in itself; Track 2, Avalanche, is a great example of this. Beginning with a hybrid pop-rock drum burst, the guitars and bass crash in with a Punk riff worthy of being on any Green Day album but that is abruptly cut short when the boy-band solo vocal takes over accompanied by a soft backing. After the first verse, everything comes together in an…ahem…Avalanche of sound for the chorus after which it all breaks down for the second verse and unites again for the next chorus. The album contains twelve such 3½ minute arrangements/compositions and I think it’s fair to say in doing so, they have created a new genre. I have to say, my particular pick from the ten tracks on the album is the last one which is simply beautiful for the first half with an epic ending for the second akin to the choral codas off the Anti-Nowhere League’s Perfect Crime album.
The two bonus tracks for the Japanese release add a welcome 7½ minutes to the disc and do not feel in anyway added as an afterthought. In actual fact, the second of the two is one of my favourites on the entire disc for its terrific driving guitar riff and inventive middle section. Credit must be given to the producer* as well for pulling all of these elements together into one single comprehensive album.
This album will not be to everybody’s taste and there will be the purists who prefer Pop or Rock but for those of us like me who can happily listen to multiple genres in one day, this is a patchwork of delights.
1. I Hope This Changes Everything
4. Bad Blood
Bonus Tracks for Japan
11. Tell Me What You Wanna Believe
12. A Shadow
*Apologies as I do not know who actually produced it and the internet as of writing does not reveal who did.