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Album Review: Pet Shop Boys - Super
Having rediscovered their mojo on 2013’s Electric, this month’s cover stars Pet Shop Boys adhere to the if ‘it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach for what is quite easily the most confidently-titled album in their 30-year discography, Super.
Joining forces once more with hit-making producer Stuart Price (The Killers, Madonna), Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe pick up where they left off with another helping of Hi-NRG anthems heavily indebted to the club culture of their late 80s/early 90s commercial heyday.
Of course, this being the PSB, Super’s journey back to the golden age of dance music is anything but generic. Indeed, it’s difficult to see any other of the current crop of retro-minded ravers producing anything as idiosyncratic as The Dictator Decided, a haunting and occasionally operatic affair in which a tyrant, fed up with his own oppressive regime, dreams of a Mediterranean getaway.
Likewise, the playful opener Happiness, which sounds like The Chemical Brothers gate-crashing a country and western hoedown, and the equally barmy Twenty-something, a reflection on the hardships facing today’s young Londoners which combines end-of-the-pier organs with reggaeton beats inspired by a recent trip to Colombia.
Thankfully, Super is just as compelling when the UK’s most arch musical duo play it relatively straight. Lead single The Pop Kids is a glorious house-pop throwback in which two former students reminisce about the joys of going out on a wet Wednesday night.
The Balearic synth-pop of Groovy could well replace Geri Halliwell’s debut single as the ultimate narcissist anthem (“look at me, I’m just so look at me, I’m just so groovy”), while the pulsing mid-section of Pazzo!, Inner Sanctum and Undertow prove that the pair can still teach the EDM crop half their age a thing or two when it comes to club bangers.
But ironically, the highlight of such a hedonistic record appears courtesy of its most downbeat moment, with Sad Robot World – a meditation on the future of artificial intelligence which could easily serve as an alternative theme to Channel 4’s Humans – adding to the duo’s canon of stark but supremely elegant electro-ballads.
A handful of slightly pedestrian tracks (Say It To Me, Into Thin Air) towards the end means Super doesn’t always live up to its self-assured name. But overall, it’s a vibrant, if sometimes bewildering, love letter to the dancefloor which unarguably continues Pet Shop Boys’ late-career renaissance.
Rating: 8/10JON O'BRIENMore stories:Pet Shop Boys are Attitude’s brand new cover starsPet Shop Boys confirm new album for April 2016