[review] Pet Shop Boys – Elysium

This is unusual. Pet Shop Boys is hopefully romantic. In fact, I found it rather strange that the lyrics are generally optimistic, especially when most of them told brokenhearted stories.

And if you like Pet Shop Boys from their less electronic albums like “Release” or “Behaviour”, then you would love this album. Or at least half of it. I even found it very ‘sweet’, where I could just play some tracks at a general tea party, along with other indiepop tunes in the playlist.

“Leaving” (my current favourite!) was one of those romantically hopefuls, literally. The chorus even went like this: “I know enough’s enough and you’re leaving / You’ve had enough time to decide on your freedom / but I can still find some hope to believe in love”. Another hopeful track was “Give It A Go”, although musically it was not as special as “Leaving”.

You can feel the air of optimisms in many parts of the album. And I found it very strange. In “Hold On”, for example. The first part of the lyrics ran like this: “Hold on.. hold on.. / There’s got to be a future / Hold on.” It was rather contradictory to “This Used to Be The Future” (which featured Phil Oakey in “Yes” album) that said, “This used to be the future / where it was at back then / Let’s tear the whole bloody lot down / and start all over again”.

But perhaps this was just another of their (positive) utopian perspective, and suddenly I had the image of Neil holding a baby in his arms, as in “It’s Alright” video, appeared inside my head.

A track that I found lyrically interesting was “Your Early Stuff”. I wonder whether it was referred to a particular band from the 1980s or the come back of the synthpop wave in general? Or did they actually talk about themselves?

My other favourite from this album (apart from “Leaving”) was “A Face Like That”. I found the music more appropriate for the video “Together”, where dancers entered the hall and started dancing. And the dancers should wear suits, just like in their “Single” video, or when they played “West End Girls” during the Pandemonium tour. Musically it reminded me of “The Boy Who Couldn’t Take His Clothes On” with the intro of “West End Girls”, but lyrically, it (again) showed Neil’s fondness of the beautiful people.

With a face like that, how couldn’t I want you?

“Invisible” was probably one of the few tracks with a negative lyric. Listening to Invisible was as depressing as listening to “Numb”, a single from their 2003 album Fundamental, which I claimed to be the darkest Pet Shop Boys album ever made. After all, how come they felt invisible when they claimed 22 years ago that they were never being boring?

But unlike Numb, the video for Invisible was much less depressing. It was a very artsy video, and it reminded me of the works of Chinese invisible man Liu Bolin.

directed by Brian Bress

It was difficult to figure out a general theme for the album. If you take a look at the album cover, then you would get an impression that it contains some laid-back, chill out, lounge-y tunes. Well it does, if you listen to “Leaving” or “Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin”. But that warm sunny afternoon atmosphere didn’t appear in the rest of the album, and unlike other Pet Shop Boys’ studio album, it lacked a strong concept. Even though it was filled with lyrically positive tracks, musically it was a major downfall.

I must say (though I hate to admit) that most of the songs were mediocre. I didn’t find them brilliant or appealing, and I was disappointed because I had been expecting so much from this album after their three-year-absence of making a proper studio album. After “Yes” in 2009, they had released a holiday album (which I found it somewhat unnecessary), another greatest hits album (what for?), a compilation of B-side tracks, and a music score for a ballet. Four non-studio albums in four years. They had been over-exploited.

And why did they have “Winner” for a single? It didn’t have that strong Tennant-ian lyrics, and I felt that the whole concept of the song was forced merely for the sake of the Olympics. Yet in the end, the sang “West End Girls” instead at the Closing Ceremony (although they did play “Winner” at the Athletes Parade..)

However, the lyrics ‘merely’ went “I’m a winner, you’re a winner / This is all happening so fast”. It was all too simple. It was.. disappointing.

And when you listen to the whole album, please skip “Ego Music”. Not only that it was the worst song of the album, it was the worst song in the entire Pet Shop Boys history. It was even worse than the similar-title “Hit Music”, which featured in 1987 “Actually”.

Still, I found the album worth to listen to, although I had to skip some songs. And if you are a fan of “Behaviour” or “Release”, why don’t you give it a go?

ps: Even my cat wanted to listen to it too, haha.

it’s Elysium dear, not Actually.

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