The cover art to the Pet Shop Boys 12th album, ‘Electric’ is charming and enticing, a minimalististic Bridget Riley-esque piece of op-art, angular blue waves on a white background, alternating their positions as you concentrate, no name of duo or album in sight, and boding well for the contents.
The art is the only reason to buy the album, because god knows there is none in the music. When I say none, I don’t mean little, or scant, available on repeated exposure. I mean none. This is an empty, Benetton ad-on-a-treadmill, cynical, vapid, ugly waste of everyone’s time. ‘Electric’ is the sound of a frustrated music journalist and computer programmer who should have retired a long time ago, realising that they are about to default on their Hampstead mortgages.
‘You’ve got the looks, I’ve got the brains – let’s make lots of money’ Neil Tennant whined, catchily enough on 80s ode to Thatcherism ‘Oppurtunities’. Fast forward a quarter of a century or so, and keyboardist Chris Lowe can’t even be bothered to put a tune behind Tennant’s 2013 Oscar Wildeisms, such as ‘Everything about tonight feels right…the feeling around is so strong’ (on nadir ‘Vocal’). If there were some postmodern situationist archery behind the pose of their eighties heyday, it’s been sapped dry, fucked to death and left for dead without a tissue.
Techno-electro-dance-EDM has had many fine moments before the Pet Shop Boys (Kraftwerk, Jean Michel-Jarre) during (Erasure, Art of Noise) and since (Orbital, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Propellerheads, Skrillex, Aphex Twin, many more), but do you remember how you felt when you first heard their mix of Blur’s ‘Girls and Boys’? Personally I felt like I’d been sold a bad haircut by Dale Winton, Graham Norton and Julian Clary in a swimming pool dressing room.
‘Electric’ is the hollow E-trip of someone who has done too much of the stuff after many years, the acrid stench of an empty bottle of poppers. It’s the death-rattle of predictable synth-stab noises dry-humping sub-motorik beats on an empty provincial, orange-streetlamp-lit sleeper town. If it were the intention to highlight this misery of 21st century life, PSB fail by refusing to contextualize anything, by treating their deluded audience with the contempt that SURELY is ironic (or so Tennant presumably will insist).
‘Bolshy’ once again underlines their mockery of real integrity with a non-existent, tedious attempt at a hook; ‘Axis’ described by the NME as ‘a euphoric, towering techno workout’ is actually just that – lowest-common denominator tampon-advert music to pump your guns to at the local sports centre, before buying your pre-packed caesar salad at Waitrose and settling down to the EDL on Newsnight followed by the latest episode of Fringe. ‘Life Is A Bourgeois Concept’ is a stomach-churning disaster of a track that Russell Brand would be embarrassed to sing along to, and which makes Lady Gaga look like Aretha Franklin in the soul stakes.
‘Electric’ is the sound of a million Ben Sherman and Fred Perry t-shirts slapping their steering wheels or getting a hard-on for the grinding perm in the queue outside the ladies; if anyone once thought the sound of punk or black metal was the sound of aggression, from once-cerebral roots the Pet Shop Boys use this ultra-masculine seethe and forget the irony (whilst hoping others don’t), clearly deciding that intelligent, affecting songwriting, nuance or memorable tunes are SO twentieth century. Risible.
rating 0.5 (for the cover art)
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