Alright, we have to call a spade a spade, and Pet Shop Boys' 2012 album Elysium (not linked to the upcoming Matt Damon/Jodie Foster movie of the same name) was something of a snooze. I think it may be lack of promotion - but then again, the PSBs aren't really known on this side of the pond as hyper-promoters of their music and have historically let their work speak for itself. That may have worked in the beginnings of their career when songs could on radio airplay alone make an album achieve notoriety in sales, but nowadays, sales drive an artist's success or failure. Unless you were and are a die-hard fan of the PSB, you didn't really hear or care for Elysium and instead focused on whomever hit the charts last year, take your pick. [Personally, I rarely follow pop, and when I do, it's only because I know without a shadow of a doubt the artist merits listening to.]
So it's not a surprise to me that the PSBs, instead of taking another three year hiatus from the music scene, have decided to create another album that was this time around not a chilled out bore but a dance-floor stomper. I haven't heard anything past their intro-lead single Axis, which hit a paltry 196 on the UK charts (which pretty much spells out how far the duo has fallen in musical tastes whilst still producing mind-blowing music, while younger pop acts emulate them and get the juicy chart placements that the PSB should be getting) this past April, and already I am blown off my Converse sneakers. Tennant and Lowe have tinkered with mainly instrumental formats before, the most notorious and well-known being their moderate hit Paninaro from 1986, re-released ten years later with more spoken lyrics to chart as a top 15 hit on the UK charts. While the music for both versions was somewhat stark and drab (yet compelling; I recall how people flocked to dance the shit out of this in both 1986 and 1995), nothing prepared me for the audio assault of their mainly instrumental Axis.
I don't know the concept behind it nor do I care. One listen and I felt the grandiose, frightened, and alive, falling through my own rabbit hole of synth, complex layers of sound somewhat derivative of the instrumentals Paninaro and Music for Boys on the Alternative CD with a borrowed synth-line from Phyllis Nelson's 1985 hit "I Like You". This time around the sound is extremely muscular, densely synthesized, and an explosion of rhythm. I haven't heard PSB sound this dense, layered, or dark for that matter. The video is pretty much an exercise in crazy -- immediately one is thrown into a wormhole only to resurface to find to ominous looking men in buffalo heads moving robotically as a backdrop of psychedelic lights all but induces you to an epileptic attack.
Which, again, is all fine with me. These guys know music, know dance, and could create nothing I wouldn't like. Dance musicians of today should take notice. One doesn't reach 60 and make music like this out from one's own ass. If you like it, get it, and tell everyone you can. Pop music needs all the help it can get, and the PSB could lend much influence to today's headliners.