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Pet Shop Boys Plug Electric

In Phoenix Friday Night

Image by John Wright.

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The Synthpop/Electronic Dance Music/House/New Wave/Alternative Dance/Disco Group Most Famous For Their 1980s Hits Makes A Stop In Phoenix This Weekend In Support Of Its Latest Album


By Chris Braswell
Modern Times Magazine

April 17, 2014 — England's synthpop/New Wave group Pet Shop Boys will be in Phoenix on Friday night in support of the band’s latest (12th) studio album release Electric.

I remember the band’s hit “West End Girls” playing in full rotation on MTV in 1986; I was in middle school and I was technically still an innocent. We drove to the nearest big city (Houston) to see the Pet Shops play circa 1991.

When I listened back at that song this week, I was flooded with an azure nostalgia, of the sixth grade, and then of the 12th grade. It was a pleasant emotion the color of lapis lazuli. And when I listened to the copy of Electric provided to me by the group’s press agent last week, though it’s not 20 years deep, I found the music to be stylistically true-to-form enough with the band’s historical body of work as to touch upon that same pond of old nostalgia despite the fact that it’s all new content.

The band’s perspective is still peaceful and frank, and its artistic illustration of the world and society is done with a detached, cool perspective. The music is, still, full of hooks but not riffs, so it’s catchy, but it’s pacifying and there is no hangover or unintentional reverb.

The album’s first song, “Axis,” introduces a fresh, in-good-faith, successful effort at the type of orderly and rewarding electronic dance music which is just as aesthetically and technologically important as any high fidelity 1970s album rock, in terms of its being appropriate for headphones. So Electric is redeemable in terms of its application as a piece of sleek visual audio.

The album’s second song, “Bolshy,” has the musicians planting the seed to clone themselves, or reinforce their crops, or as you like it, in the minds of the band’s fan base who might find peace, security, and quarter among some comfortable, detached, neo-communist intellectual geography.

The introduction of the album's third song, “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct” (which somehow for me conjures up images of bored sociology students wearing sunglasses at night), salutes the aesthetic of the glistening black vinyl of Eastern European pop rock that was ubiquitous in the early 1980s. The piece also deploys a repetitive rhetoric which serves as a sort of meta-non-fiction, urging the attentive listener away from traditional pre-apocalyptic values, and toward a hive mentality and its safety in numbers for wayfinding and exploration for such things as kinsmanship, romance, or adventure.

“Fluorescent” is an upbeat standard club mix with minor angles and shifts and it reflects the dance club scene from the era of the band's birth. Further, the lyrics of “Fluorescent” deliver a sublime cautionary tale that one might hear from any wise and well-tenured survivor of any decade’s nightclub scene, or a perhaps from a narcotics officer.

Both “Inside A Dream” and “The Last To Die” deliver the group's classic trademark style and sound that is cool and detached but still rich with color, recorded with broad strokes on a lush, paint-by-synthesizer audioscape.

All of the mixes on this album are very danceable although “Shouting In The Evening” is a notable pulsing throbber, and its winding up, shifting gears, and climaxing several times makes for a great club piece. Dancing is good exercise, people.

“Thursday” features accompanying vocalist Example and is another of the tracks on this LP that hits home with the band’s legacy trademark style.

The last track, “Vocal,” might be interpreted as a self-portrait of the band with respect to their simple wisdom of self-awareness as audiophiles and the band members’ ongoing role as a cohesive artistic vessel.

The group shows a commendable ability to serve up their unique sound and style in a refreshing and palatable incarnation, as well as a welcome willingness to keep on bringing it back across the Atlantic, and to the U.S. desert southwest.

The show is at Comerica Theater, 400 W. Washington Street, 9 p.m.

Chris Braswell is the managing editor of Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at
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