[sic] Magazine

Pet Shop Boys – Yes, Etc.

Pet Shop Boys – there is no ‘The’ – have always firmly eschewed the nostalgia market. No appearances on “I remember The 80’s” or package tours. No ‘Lifetime Achievement’ awards. After being so visible for so long, they have, whether they like it or not, been co-opted into a sort of mainstream. Initially seen as one-hit wonders that stubbornly clung on, it is only with the benefit of hindsight that perhaps the world can see what they were. A modern day, musical Gilbert & George. Using themselves as parodies and caricatures (the wordy one and the sulky one), a sort of disco Yin & Yang that have manipulated the public perception and pigeonholing to create the best kind of art: the one where the art, which is often about the artist, into some kind of uniform, universal truth.

Who hasn’t listened to ‘Go West’ and longed for that kind of belonging, that kind of euphoria? Who hasn’t listened to ‘It’s A Sin’ and identified with the guilt?

By placing themselves in a lens – the prism of Clause 28, the jackboot of Fatcha, the nostalgia of middle age – Pet Shop Boys have always been doing something new. Not always successfully commercially or critically, but always going somewhere. With Yes, (their 11th studio record, and – compilations included, their 20th album), they invoke a lost age and a new dawn.

Yes is neither their best nor their worst album. It many ways it echoes 2002’s under appreciated Release. Albeit whereas that was an attempt to explore a more conventional rock format, Yes reminds me most of a modern, updated template of a classic swinging 60’s album. The type of swagger and gait of The Kinks is pushed through the PSB electrogrinder to fulfill a thoroughly unique style. With a bucket of retro synths, traditional – and formidably strong songwriting – and liberal doses of Johnny Marr’s imperial guitar tones, and Yes is a thoroughly successful artistic statement. However, it does lack the one absolute killer Pet Shop Boys single. It’s a strong and consistent record of fine songs, but it does not have one stone dead classic on it.

‘Love etc.’, is fine. But as is typical with bands of a vintage, the first single is occasionally complacent. I call this Depeche Mode syndrome – where the band think radio will play the first single; however weird it is. ‘All Over The World’, ‘Beautiful People’ and ‘Pandemonium’ are all classics taken from the quirky sixties pop factory, and are not pastiches, but recreations of a lost way of songwriting. ‘Pandemonium’ suffers by being co-written with chart vandalisers Xenophobia – an easy, simple chorus that a long term listener will recognise as being simply not as intelligent as the rest of their work. The chorus is too obvious lyrically and melodically. It’s good, but it’s accessible.

And, like recent albums of theirs there is a dip in the middle where momentum and interest flags. This isn’t helped by a sudden shift in the last song ‘Legacy’ two minutes from the end where a atonal shift to a twice-as-fast bridge yanks the listener out of the mood and I ask myself what fresh hell I have found pro-tooled into the album?

Etc., the limited edition bonus disc, is a fine addition. Extra songs and luxurious, dense instrumental re-workings. Worth picking up for exploratory moments and long commutes, it reveals the often overlooked instrumental prowess of the music.

Yes is a very good record, but by no means their best work, and when they have set the bar so high in the past, very good isn’t quite good enough

Pet Shop Boys official website

For more from Mark please visit The Mark Reed website