PET SHOP BOYS - CD
Sony Music Japan - 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)
THE SYNTH LORD - CD
THE SYNTH AS SOUL
Independent Release - Out now
Before I begin, I would like to point out that I receive a lot of independent CDs to review and 99% of them receive a polite decline for one reason or another but occasionally something comes along that is so good, it’s impossible not to review it. Now, without further ado when was the last time you heard something that harks back to the past but also moves forward? Something that is original but based on the familiar? A new way of playing an established genre? Welcome to The Synth Lord.
Aptly named, this disc is an sonic overload of synths, drum machines, sound effects, vocals and god knows what other instruments that spin around your stereo (or headphones if you prefer but pu-leaaaaase, no earbuds) in a kaleidoscope of sound, all beautifully defined and separated in multiple layers that pan left and right, front and back. If that’s a lot of information to take in for the first sentence, that’s because that’s exactly how the album sounds. Just twenty seconds in to the first track and your brain will be scrambling to comprehend it all and forty seconds in, the first, of many, curve balls. Track two opens with a Metal guitar and drum punctuation topped with a manic sequencer (honestly, it works) and then goes into a sublime piece of pure Pop with one of the finest choruses I’ve heard for years – lyrically and melodically perfect and has ‘No. 1 hit’ written all over it. That’s not the only gem on the album though, this record is full of them and demands your attention, grabbing your ears from start to finish.
If I sound like I’m raving, I am and it’s tempting to go through this track by track but that would only bore you all stupid and would never do the album justice anyway. Suffice to say, every song is well composed, performed and recorded with no overcrowding instrumentally. There are excellent melodies throughout and the production is top notch; a real old school sound but with a twist for the modern day Techno enthusiast. A lot of recordings today do not stand up to different volume levels, often distorting at high outputs or having no punch at low ones but I cranked this up on my stereo and the dynamics were astonishing, with clarity right up to a deafening level – even my neighbours liked it.
This my friends is where Synth Pop Rock Metal (if there is such a genre and if there isn't, there should be) should be going in the future. It’s The Human League, Howard Jones and Gary Numan jamming on the USS Enterprise; Lady Gaga gone gaga; Bowie in 2050.
I Am Not The One You Want
Fame And Fortune
We Are Not Alone
The End Of Times