Sound — 8
Not long ago I was reviewing an album from another synthpop duo, Daft Punk, so it is hard to not draw comparisons. The Pet Shop Boys are made up of the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, and like Daft Punk they've mixed their music with image. While Daft Punk have adopted "Tron"-like outfits, the Pet Shop Boys have adopted a much more normal image with cap and sunglasses for Chris Lowe and Tennant maintaining a much more reserved look, usually wearing a suit. Both bands have been influenced by disco, but while Daft Punk's recent release is a blatant electro-disco type of album, the Pet Shop Boys have let disco be more of a constant and subtle influence. The album, "Electric," has nine tracks with a total runtime of just under 50 minutes. The first single, "Axis," was released on April 30th and the second single, "Vocal," was released on June 3rd. The band also initiated a tour in support of the album which began with a show in March, but officially commenced in May oddly enough, about 2 months before the actual release of the album. This is their first release to not be released by Parlophone, but instead is released on the Pet Shop Boys' own label x2, via Kobalt Label Services. This is Pet Shop Boys' twelfth studio album. The album opens up strong with their first single, "Axis," with a kind of weird delayed synth line and storm noises and builds up to a simple but infectious bass line. "Love Is a Bourgeois Construct" is another notable track from the album, with a very slow build up and a heartbeat-like drum part that eventually builds to be a fairly energetic track. The track "Inside a Dream" has a really cool bass riff that comprises the central part of the track. The track "Last to Die" was also a pretty interesting track, but in my mind I was hearing it played with more "rock and roll" type of instrumentation and I think it would be pretty interesting to cover. It is a very solid song in its own right and current format. The album closes out with the track "Vocal," which has probably 1/4 of the lyrics from the entire album. It has one of the most classic "techno" build ups and breakdowns as well. The album as a whole has a very dream-like feel to it, which is a nice vibe to dance to.
Lyrics — 7
Tennant's vocals are exactly what you want from a synthpop album; good sustain and melodic. When you consider how long Tennant has been doing this you have to give him props for doing an excellent job of taking care of his voice. I think Tennant has done a great job creating a certain image as a vocalist, and he has done this both with the style he approaches the vocals as well as his vocal skill. The actual lyrics from the album run the gamut. Being a synthpop album, some of the tracks have very minimal lyrics, such as the track "Axis" which consists almost entirely of: "Turn it on/ Electric/ Electric energy" being repeated over and over. Other tracks have a fuller lyric, such as the track "Vocal": "I like the people, I like the song/ This is my kind of music/ They play it all night long/ I like the singer, he's lonely and strange/ Every track has a vocal, and that makes a change/ And everything about tonight feels right and so young/ And anything I wanna say out loud will be sung." Of course, there isn't a lot of depth to most of the lyrics, but that isn't why people listen to dance music. Overall, the lyrics keep you interested but aren't trying to say anything too terribly important.
Overall Impression — 7
While this is definitely a solid release in the genre, I keep finding myself comparing it to the Daft Punk release and finding this album lacking in comparison. I know in my mind that this isn't a fair way to look at this release, as this is a very good album. My favorite tracks from the album are "Axis," "Inside a Dream," and "Vocal." I didn't dislike any tracks from the album. When a band is around as long as Pet Shop Boys have been around, it becomes a battle to stay relevant (especially in dance music) but they have succeeded with a will. The point of Pet Shop Boys music is to make you wanna dance, and while I didn't jump up and dance, I absolutely tapped my foot and nodded my head along to the music.