The VO5 NME Awards 2017 Godlike Geniuses recalled old classics on 2016's 'Super'
Pet Shop Boys have been confirmed to receive the Godlike Genius award at the VO5 NME Awards 2017. Revisit our review of their latest album, ‘Super’.
For their thirteenth album ‘Super’, Pet Shop Boys‘ Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe continue their rewarding collaboration with Madonna and Killers producer Stuart Price, the unabashed 80s fanatic who helmed 2013’s purely electronic success ‘Electric’. This new offering continues down that path, refining the sound of its predecessor rather than reinventing it. It’s an expansive twelve-tracks of pummelling beats and arpeggiated synths, laced with roaring crowds and operatic samples.
The pulsing rave nostalgia of first single ‘The Pop Kids’ ticks some familiar boxes, the duo still fighting pop’s corner (“We knew that rock was over-rated”) with a spoken word breakdown and an unspecified sense of melancholy. There’s a distant ache in Tennant’s voice as he murmurs “I loved you” in the past tense, an echo of the loss that shaped its thematic relative, 1990’s bittersweet ‘Being Boring’.
Rattling along in the clockwork manner of early Depeche Mode, ‘Twenty-Something’, updates the on-the-make themes of another classic Pet Shop Boys single, ‘Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)’, for a world of smartphones, start-ups and The Apprentice. Tennant’s critical eye is at its sharpest here, an ambitious young man’s business plans failing to bear fruit (“Will your ideas ever trend?”) while the years advance on him.
Most of ‘Super’ aims straight for the dancefloor, as on the trance revival of ‘Inner Sanctum’ and clonking Euro groove ‘Pazzo!’, but when the pace drops Pet Shop Boys produce some of the album’s most affecting songs. ‘Sad Robot World’ is a sorrow filled exercise in Blade Runner science fiction, an even lonelier take on Kraftwerk’s ‘Computer Love’. Better still, ‘The Dictator Decides’ paints a sympathetic character study of the disillusioned leader of a military state, a Kim Jong-un figure longing for the revolution that will end his miserable reign.
Not all of ‘Super’ lives up to its confident title. Affecting an American twang, Tennant swings through throwaway opener ‘Happiness’ like he’s auditioning for Calamity Jane while disco tributes ‘Groovy’ and ‘Burn’ are sunk by uninspired lyrics (“We’re gonna burn this disco down”). After thirty years, however, Pet Shop Boys’ innate love of pop endures.