‘Super’ Pet Shop Boys get on the dance floor with new album

X2 Records

STILL GOING STRONG: Even after more than 30 years in the business, the Pet Shop Boys prove with their new album, “Super,” that they are just as good as they ever were.

Evan Hatfield, Editor-in-Chief

The odds are good that you’ll probably only recognize the Pet Shop Boys (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe) if you’ve ever listened to one of the 80’s radio stations out there. You may know “West End Girls,” and “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” that still get a decent amount of airplay. To most people on this side of the Atlantic, though, the Pet Shop Boys are but a pair of has-beens from Great Britain who had a couple of hits before fizzling out into oblivion.

Would you believe, then, that they’re still going? April 1 saw the release of their 13th studio album, Super, in a career that’s spanned more than 30 years, proving true the old adage that what’s old is new again. It takes a bit of digging past some lesser material, but there are a few songs to be found here that are actually “Super.”

Take “The Pop Kids,” the album’s first single. A wistful recollection of youth gone by, it’s one of the most infectious songs on the album – the poppy chorus will get stuck in your head after the first listen. Almost the entire album is just as “up,” if not more so, with much of it capturing the essence of being on the dance floor, particularly “Inner Sanctum.” The almost-rave-like feel of it, helped by its pulsating beats and whooshes, even though those take up most of the song, is but a backdrop to a single message: “In the Inner Sanctum / you’re a star.” So simple, yet so effective.

It does get a bit cloying after a while. The second half of the album drops off a bit, mainly because a large chunk of it revolves around the same basic concept: love. It’s not a bad thing, and it all sounds pretty nice, but isn’t it the same sort of message you can get from the average song on top 40 radio?

That’s not to say that’s the only thing the album has going for it. The Boys are known for their intelligent, slyly cynical lyrics, and “The Dictator Decides” keeps that part of their legacy alive and well. Examining the sad life of a dictator whose own reign has made himself an unwilling prisoner, all he can do is hope that someone will “get rid of me” so “we can all be free.” All this set to a bit of Vivaldi. Dance music can be smart and still be contagious.

The only real problem is that some of the music, catchy as it may be, feels unfinished. The Boys have even admitted as much with the track “Pazzo!” Being, in vocalist Neil Tennant’s words, a “throwaway thing,” it’s basically disposable, as are a couple other overly basic tracks, but they’re all still fun listens. This album isn’t really reinventing the wheel, but that’s not really what the Boys set out to do this time around anyway. It’s a good 45 minutes of solid, danceable music, and even their worst work here is better than 80 percent of any other dance or pop music out there. Not many artists can claim that they’re still as good as ever after three decades in the industry, but the Boys are very clearly still going strong.