It’s hard to know what to make of the newer Pet Shop Boys album,Â Elysium. After all, they set the bar high for themselves; who could forget “West End Girls” or “It’s A Sin”? Even so, they’ve managed to keep their slick electro moves current to the dance floor for 30 years, an impressive amount of time for any band, let alone an electronic one who is constantly running from obsolescence as technology changes.
It seems part of the secret of staying current in the music world is teaming up with a producer whose resume includes the latest and greatest. Thus, Pet Shop Boys recruited producer Andrew Dawson, who has crafted many a hit with Kanye West, fun., Beyonce, and 30 Seconds To Mars. Unfortunately, the Pet Shop Boys lost something when they traded their own unique brand for something trendier and closer to today’s pop sensibilities. Elysium’s first single, “Winner,” falls slightly flat with its overly simplistic structure, which teeters dangerously on cliche. The buildup to the chorus hardly builds and instead remains at a tepid tempo with redundant instrumentation. For listeners expecting the Boys’ usual intensity, it’s disappointing.
Even so, it’s selling the album short to simply complain that Andrew Dawson watered down the Pet Shop Boys. It is what it is, and it still has its moments. With “Your Early Stuff,” they almost become a mockery of themselves in a way that both pokes fun at established artists and gets it stuck in your head in the process. “Ego Music” has more of a synthpop, retro feel with an amusing and fitting vocal arrangement. “Requiem In Denim And Leopardskin” is another classic in the making, bouncing sensuously along through nostalgia.
In its own way, Elysium serves as an appropriate and fierce look at both the past and the future, bringing the Pet Shop Boys into their own as a household name. It just goes to show that no matter who produces them, you can’t take the Boys out of the Pet Shop Boys.