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)
HAKEN - CD
Sony Music International - Out now
Since forming in 2007, Haken have released a series of albums that have shown progress in their songwriting and musicianship. This is their sixth studio album and their third with this line-up and once again they have made another step forward, indeed, the very term Progressive Metal not only applies to their genre of music but also to their movement forward within that genre. That said, Haken have used exactly the same production, engineering and additional musicians that they did for their last record (Vector 2018) so what we have here is progress in the music against a very familiar and solid background.
It’s a textured ride as you would expect with lots of low-end bass, chugging and biting guitars that flutter into exotic scales back-dropped with haunting keyboards, some on/off/on drums and all topped with some beautiful vocal lines that swoop through the various elements exactly where they should be. Lyrically, it’s their finest set of songs to date with a lot of psychology but touching on technology, environment, biology, and politics. Messiah Complex is a sixteen minute opus which has a lot of gems in there for you discover whilst Canary Yellow is straight forward delight. Whilst we are on it, the bonus track for the Japanese release is also Canary Yellow albeit an acoustic version. Some of the lyrics have been translated into Japanese which are sung by Bent Knee singer Courtney Swain and in all honesty, I prefer it to the actual track on the album; sweet all the way through.
It’s no surprise that since Vector, this six-piece has received awards and recognition for their work and are now regarded as one of the best in this genre. They have got the balance between Metal and Prog exactly right and their musicianship has improved, most notably between themselves having an understanding of each other’s abilities. This naturally reflects heavily in the songs and although the album is in some ways a continuation of Vector, this is far more advanced in every way. Even the artwork has taken a big step forward with some very eerie images alongside the lyrics.
Virus. That’s the title and no doubt when you read that will have an instant association with the current world situation but get past it because there is so much more for you to discover here. You don’t even have to wear a mask. J
4 The Strain
5 Canary Yellow
6 Messiah Complex
A Glutton For Punishment
7 Only Stars
8 Canary Yellow (acoustic)*
*Bonus track for Japan