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Review: Pet Shop Boys' Hotspot

by Alley Richardson. Published Fri 24 Jan 2020 22:12

The end of the promised trilogy produced by Stuart Price, thank goodness. One was great two was liveable but three was quite frankly surplus to requirements.

In true Pet Shop Boys fashion the album is complete mix bag with a couple of duds thrown in, not terrible but some don’t fit as easily into the album as others.

Hotspot is the 14th studio album and after more than 30 years in the business Pet Shop Boys have delivered some truly magical musical moments. The experimental quality of their sound and emerging in technology they have always been far reaching, way beyond the now.

Opening with a stonker Will-o-the-Wisp is PSB as we know and love them that could have had us dancing the whole album through on this anthemic sound but it was not to be.

You are the one comes crashing down way too fast with its sickly sweet melody that smacks of desperation and a bit embarrassing really. It was nauseating from beginning to end and certainly not a stand out track.

Oh guys don’t let us down second track in was the initial thought.

But of course they didn’t with Happy people, it plays right to the club slut core and brings you back to a steady burn. That spoken word combined with a catchy chorus and a banging beat is proof that PSB world is pop personified.

Undoubtedly the catchiest track on the album Dreamland (feat Years and Years) is the lift this album needs. The sing-a-long track brings out an excitement in Neil we haven’t heard for a while, Thank you Olly Alexander!

When a song makes you feel uncomfortable from the outset, as Hoping For A Miracle did it was almost time to call it quits. It grated on the nerves like nails on a blackboard. Lyrically it just wasn't worth it and after the second listen it has nothing more than skipable quality.

That said I Don’t Wanna is another let down in terms of the Americanism Wanna, it does not sit right on the ear without the quintessential Englishness we love from Mr Tennant, it’s unworthy and a waste of the beautiful pronunciation that has been the cornerstone of Pet Shop Boys songs, recognisable anywhere.

When the promise of a video with Chris Lowe showing us his moves, an incredible thing we haven’t seen in a long time, it matters not that the song Monkey Business is comedic nonsense but all credit to Neil who can write a song from the most random of things. It adds a giggle mid-way through which is necessary to break up the album. For fans this is a massive high point.

As far as ballads go this is as good as the album gives, Only The Dark has a beautiful simplistic quality that's delivered forthrightly and with all the tenderness that Neil is capable of, perhaps in his own wonderful Dusty Springfield way that gives thought to every word and feeling to every syllable.

Burning The Heather feels like a clearing of the way for something new, a resignation of the fast passing years maybe? But again new is good even if it’s not great it’s good because it’s new. One can imagine Neil strumming away quietly while writing this and Neil playing his guitar can give you the shivers at times in the most unusual way.

As with Requiem in denim and leopard skin from the 2012 Elysium album Wedding In Berlin is a definite album closure song but a completely different theme.

A reworking of the Wedding March complete with bells (who doesn’t live the sound of bells in a pop song?)

This has promise and hope, hope being the defining essence that has run through Pet Shop Boys from the beginning.

Its new Pet Shop Boys and that’s always good and will have its rightful place somewhere in the middle of their catalogue of great, good and just ok, at the same time though now the Stuart Price era is at an end and that paves the way for a fresh new take and someone new to take up the challenge of working with two of the most exacting pop masters the U.K. has to offer the world.

Hotspot is available now on all platforms.

More at: https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/home


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