Axis has been around for quite a while now, and until two days ago, this was my favourite album track. From the discordant synth sound at the start, to the pumping, driving beat throughout, this song is an absolute winner. Nods to Kraftwerk along the way with the occasional vocoder and ending with the Pet Shop Boys’ plinky-plonky Casio sounds, this is five minutes and thirty-three seconds of greatness. ***** *****
More plinky-plonky to start with a stab at a house piano. When I saw the video snippet to this I immediately hated it. “Bolshy, bolshy, bolshy, oh!” was just too much to stomach. Listening to the full track now it improves a little but I don’t think I’ll ever get enthusiastic about it. The bass middle section with the cowbell is reminiscent of stuff from 25 years ago. The vocal in the centre section is chopped about and looped over the top of a swirly synth section, and a nice bass and drum/cowbell bit to end. *** *****
3. Love Is a Bourgeois Construct
Oh no. Bass and drum over (Gawdhelpus) Michael Nyman’s ‘Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds‘ (which he, in turn, nicked from Henry Purcell’s opera ‘King Arthur’ (Prelude to Act III, Scene 2 if you’re interesting). What ‘Smash Hits’ would call a ‘stomper’. “When you walked out you did me a favour” is a lyric I can relate to and makes me like it a little. There’s a lot going on in this song. I’m sitting here thinking “what else does this sound like” and as soon as the Neilatron kicks in I suddenly remember ‘It Doesn’t Always Snow at Christmas‘. And towards the end, someone breaks out the sampler and starts mucking around with the vocal before the Neilatron comes back in. ** *****
Oh, now then. Starts off with what sounds like a lovely Korg bass sound, grating drum and a light vocal. More discordant Kraftwerkness in here, too and a ‘rata-tata-tata’ drum. The vocal sounds like Neil has been pitched in the middle of the Atlantic in a rubber dinghy – up and down and all over the place. “Fluorescent, incandescent”. There really isn’t a lot going on in this track despite the really promising start. That Korg bass, I’m sorry to say, is the only saving grace in the whole six minutes and seventeen seconds, and reminds me a little of the more monstrous bass sound in Human League’s ‘Crow and a Baby‘. Not only that, listen to the track while thinking ‘John Foxx‘. ** ****
5. Inside a Dream
Big chords to open with some effected drum sound and a chopped vocal. This one’s been doing the rounds for a few days, too. Sounds too New Orderish for my liking (think ‘World in Motion‘ when the plinky-plonky sounds kicks in). The chorus vocal is completely lost in a wash of sound. If you love standing in a club with your ears bleeding, this album is for you. I’m half way through listening to it now, and wishing I was listening to ‘Elysium’ which had a better production, better sound, better songs. Sorry. ** ****
6. Last to Die
This is the Bruce Springsteen song isn’t it? More jingly keys and strings to start. I remember hearing this live on a YouTube video and didn’t think much of it then (but then I’m the biggest hater of live music as you probably all know anyway). Not sure whether that’s a real guitar sound (it’s probably a keyboard). What happened to the days when you had a Fairlight and Oberheim OBX and you KNEW what was making the sounds. Oh hullo, Neil’s on the ‘la la la’s’ already. I don’t think I’ve got the grapes to want to listen to the original of this song. Fortunately, it’s one of the shorter songs on the album. ** ****
7. Shouting in the Evening
Strings and plinky-plonky to open, plus a gated bass sound. Oh hello, it’s Yello! Nice! Uptempo, bassy, gatey, grungy – me likey! Until the vocal kicks in (but they don’t last for long). Neil sounds like he’s on the helium while having his ‘boys’ shut in a vice. In Belgravia, probably. If there’s still a God up there, please PLEASE let there be an instrumental version of this album. Multitracked vocals have been the staple diet of Pet Shop Boys since, well, the start. But pitching ones voice five octaves higher then double-tracking it is not a clever idea, unless you want to reach an audience of Smurfs. The ‘vocal’ really trashes what could have been a decent track. *** ****
More plinky, strings and a low bass. The live version of this makes my skin crawl whenever I think about it. Pleased to say the studio version is a heck of a lot better. And despite this guest artist (Example), Thursday is probably my favourite track on the album. The strings and bass lean a nod to ‘West End Girls’, which this could easily have been (remember the EZ-posse version in ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’)? “Thursday then Friday, it’s soon gonna be the weekend”. Don’t think I’ve ever heard a song extolling the virtues of Thursday night. Example (Elliot Gleave) sounds a little like Chris Lowe when he speaks the days of the week in the vocal, but pleased to read that he’s from Hammersmith. Yes. Like this one a lot. Definitely my favourite. ***** *****
Another one that seems to have been around for ages. “Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care!” (Not actually a lyric in the song, more of a nauseous reminder of the nineties). The chord progression sounds like a preset on one of those cheap Korg micro-keyboards. Just wondering whether this album should have been called ‘Disco 5’. The ‘Disco’ series is the complete opposite to the Star Trek films. With the films, the odd-numbered ones were all crap, and the even-numbered ones pretty good. With Disco, the odd numbered ones were eminently listenable, and horrors like Disco 2 and 4 should just have gone in the bin. But if this were Disco 5, it would break the mould because it’s not that good at all. Sadly. ** ****
Sorry Neil. Sorry Chris. Sorry Petheads. Sorry Disco Divas. Sorry Michelle (wherever the hell you are these days). I’m off to listen to Elysium again. And remember the good times.
Now on the third playing. Oh God, it’s starting to grow on me …
Also, I’ve noticed that the order of the track titles are almost in alphabetical order.
Electric by Pet Shop Boys is released on X2 records Monday-week, 15 July 2013. You can pre-order it in its many guises (CD, vinyl, PlayButton* etc) from Pet Shop Boys Website.
* I lied about the PlayButton. They’re all sold out.
* Another Update *
I can’t stop listening to it!
* Yes – another bloody update! *
The red stars after the songs are my rating based on the fact I’ve now listened to this brilliant album a billion times. How things change when you listen properly.