You can’t keep a good man down. That’s the saying, isn’t it? Well in this case it’s two good men. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have been together as The Pet Shop Boys since the eighties, and have always prided themselves on creating inventive electronic pop music. You either love them or hate them, but there’s one thing you can’t deny them. These boys have real staying power. ‘Super’ is their thirteenth album together, and they are still going strong. No attempted solo careers or bust up. The weirdest couple in pop have stayed loyal to each other and their band. And why not? There is clearly a chemistry, and a love for the music they make that keeps them creating music together. Like most long careers, the standards have gone up and down. Early songs like ‘West End Girls’ and ‘Suburbia’ will go down as classics. They have attempted in the past to step out of their comfort zone. Their ballet soundtrack ‘The Most Incredible Thing’ was the most removed piece of work from their back catalogue, as they swapped their synths for more delicate orchestral sounds. Their brief ill advised venture in to Brit pop ‘I Get Along’ is probably best forgotten. The boys are at their best when they forget trying to be ‘cool’ and do what they do best: Straight forward eighties synth pop, with interesting, clever and often cynical lyrics.
And it’s clear from album opener ‘Happiness’ that that’s what we’re going to get. Whilst ‘Super’ is never going to score them any new fans, it will inevitably keep the hordes of existing fans more than happy. Their recent single ‘The Pop Kids’ which features as track two is classic Pet Shop Boys. Lyrically it is sharp, and retrospective. The synths have their sound splattered all over them, and it also has one of those brilliant Neil Tennant talking bits that have become famous over their many years on the scene. It could have been released as a single at any point in their career and fitted in comfortably. But you know what they say: if it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it.
The album is a mixture of the full on disco anthems such as ‘Groovy’ and ‘Undertow’ and the more melancholic ballads like the totally rousing ‘Mad Robot World’. At times in their career they have bordered on the kookiness we know and love them for, to the full on bat-shit crazy. In the past they have done that with tracks like ‘Left To My Own Devices’ and ‘Yesterday, When I was Mad’. In fact, the whole of their ’93 album ‘Very’ was the sound of two men having a breakdown. On this album that song is ‘The Dictator Decides’. Lyrically it’s the sharpest thing on the album, and probably that they’ve released in a long time. Neil sings ‘The joke is I’m not even a demagogue. Have you heard me giving a speech? My facts are invented, I sound quite demented.’ It’s moments like this that only The Pet Shop Boys could be responsible for. Who knows what made them to write this song, or what it all means. It’s this ingenuity that has kept them around to this day.
What The Pet Shop have always done, is produce great dance music. A couple of great examples of this reside in the middle of this album. ‘Pazzo!’ is an instrumental floor filler, followed by leading single ‘Inner Sanctum’. The latter’s minimal lyrics are dropped over a huge track that sounds like it comes rom the early 00’s trance scene.
There’s no doubt that the boys will continue releasing music for many years to come. It’s not for everyone, but they still have a huge following of fans who have been with them since the beginning. This is an album for those fans. It is everything we knew and expected it would be.