Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental (2006): Review

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Produced by Trevor Horn & Pet Shop Boys
Label – Parlophone/Rhino

The Trevor Horn produced “Left To My Own Devices” from Pet Shop Boys 1988 album “Introspective” was one of the glorious marriages of outstanding creativity and pop song simplicity. 18 years later, Horn returns to contribute on a complete Pet Shop Boys recording, and the sense of anticipation is certainly heightened by this. For a number of years the duo’s performances had lulled, and one hoped for a return to the supremacy of the late 80’s when the boys were the synthpop kings, subversive, wimpish, dowdy but always with the eye for a top tune and an addictive beat. On “Fundamental” Neil Tennant has a myriad of “issues” lurking between the melodies, none more than his beloved Government of whom he heartily celebrated with after their 1997 victory. The Iraqi confrontation, Blair’s relationship with Bush, Identity cards, and Asylum, are all grating the erudite Pop Prince, and his change of heart and support isn’t one of anger, more disappointment for the promise of a strong national identity and pride that simply hasn’t materialized.

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Tennant’s social and political posturing only work if the songs are memorable, for as we know, tunes sell, lyrical sentiment doesn’t, and that’s why “Fundamental” only half succeeds in spreading the message. The album is slick, well produced (restrained by Horn’s standards), but musically uninspiring. There’s very little of the upbeat pomp of early recordings, more insular balladry using melodies that are straight from the 80s pop by numbers method, or rather Pet Shop Boys by numbers method. In fact, the two best songs from the album (“Psychological” and “Minimal”) are both apolitical, snug slabs of Kraftwerk style electro pop, darkly rhythmic, and perfectly fresh for 2006. “I’m With Stupid” is as close Tennant gets to a rant as he conveys his distrust and hatred for the “special relationship” between Bush and Blair with lines like “You grin, I pose, It’s not about sincerity, Everybody knows”. The corresponding disappointments of the Iraq War also feature as Tennant repeats the sad refrain “Sometimes the solution is worse than the problem, Let’s stay together”. All this from a man who drank Champagne (see “The Sodom And Gomorrah Show”) with the newly elected Government at their celebratory party in May ’97.

Not as strong as “Actually”, “Very”, or “Behaviour”, the album is a welcome if uninspired return for the Pet Shop Boys.

6/10

Track List
“Psychological” – 4:10
“The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” – 5:19
“I Made My Excuses and Left” – 4:53
“Minimal” – 4:21
“Numb” – 4:43
“God Willing” – 1:17
“Luna Park” – 5:31
“I’m with Stupid” – 3:24
“Casanova in Hell” – 3:13
“Twentieth Century” – 4:39
“Indefinite Leave to Remain” – 3:08
“Integral” – 3:55

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2 responses to “Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental (2006): Review

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