Pet Shop Boys
Coming off a soundtrack for Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin and a UK-only hits collection (PopArt), Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe put out their first full album of new songs since 2002’s unfocused Release. No surprise, then, that Fundamental has a back-to-basics flavor, from its title on down — though for the Pet Shop Boys, the “basics” include collaborating with ’80s mega-producer Trevor Horn (Frankie Goes to Hollywood, ABC). Horn’s touch is unmistakable on “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show,” a hyper-orchestrated slice of pleasure-dome decadence; elsewhere, “Psychological” and “Minimal” recall the glory days (and synth patches) of, respectively, Gary Numan and New Order. The theme, though, is anything but retro, with several key songs exploring the effects of another kind of fundamentalism, the recrudescence of “back to basics” religious and political thinking on world affairs. “Integral” and the refugee’s plea “Indefinite Leave To Remain” do this a bit earnestly, but the sharpest songs graze the issues with customary irreverence. “I’m with Stupid” proposes an iron-on for Tony Blair’s T-shirts; “Twentieth Century” draws a lover’s “lesson” from the Iraq invasion: “Sometimes the solution/Is worse than the problem/Let’s stay together.” There are missteps: the Diane Warren–penned “Numb,” a poor match for Tennant’s low-impact vocals, may be one ballad too many. (Fans of the duo’s club-friendly side are advised to shell out for the remix-heavy two-disc version.) Even so, you’re unlikely to encounter another pioneering techno-pop act entering its third decade with style and substance largely intact — not unless Green Gartside drops by for tea.
On the Web
Pet Shop Boys:http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/