While young whippersnappers like Disclosure make their debut, Settle, a brilliant statement of the current state of dance, it’s remarkable that two 50-year-old heroes of the genre have made an equally brilliant statement of intent as Pet Shop Boys have created with their new release, Electric.
It is a marked departure from the classicism and melancholy tone of their last release for Parlophone, last year’s Elysium. Where that album was downbeat and thoughtful, Electric is a work of glorious, carefree hedonism.
Neil Tennant’s first words are an instruction that must be followed for this record: “Turn it up.”
From the underwater opening of Axis to the hands-in-the-air nostalgic euphoria of Vocal, the Boys have not sounded this propulsive and strictly dancefloor for several years, and this is by some distance their best record for at least a decade.
When it was announced that Stuart Price — the producer responsible for bringing Madonna into the 21st century on her releases from Music to Confessions On The Dancefloor and for the essential remix of Kylie’s Get Outta My Way — was going to be at the controls, Electric had all the makings of a return to full-on club form.
What’s most impressive is just how much a return it is. It goes beyond all expectations and is the equal of past releases, with the possible exception of the timeless Behaviour.
PSB were responsible for two of the best dance records of the last quarter of a century — Disco and Introspective — both of which featured remixes and under-the-radar tracks which in their own right became classics.
Axis rolls like a bullet train of electric energy, Shouting In The Evening has a drop to die for, and there are call-backs to past glories on Thursday (the plinky synth line from West End Girls makes an appearance), while the male voice choirs on Love Is A Bourgeois Construct recall Go West, and Tennant’s most PSB-ish lyric on the record.
PSB also make room for another of their precient and perfect cover versions, this time making Bruce Springsteen’s The Last To Die into a high-energy banger.
What makes Electric so encapturing is that it sounds so utterly modern, while at the same time taking all of the great things that made PSB so influential — great melodies, genius chord changes and tongues firmly placed in cheek.
Who else would be able to include a track called Love Is A Bougeious Concept, or drop the brilliant lyric, “I like the singer, he’s lonely and strange” in Vocal, the all-out house homage that closes the record?
They have said that this is a “Chris” album, as opposed to a “Neil” album. To me, it seems like the best of both worlds. The wit and wordsmithery of Tennant and the dance ethic of Lowe were always perfectly balanced, and Electric is their respective strengths writ large, so large.
Dance has no age limits, and on this form, PSB remain at the vanguard of creativity in the genre. Keep raving, Boys.