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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Audio Beaverhausen: Pet Shop Boys, "Elysium"

Elysium, in Greek mythology, is a paradise for the dead who have been blessed. The Pet Shop Boys, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, have a pretty good reason to feel blessed, having remained musically relevant since the 1980s after bursting onto the pop scene with "West End Girls." Elysium is the duo's 11th album, minimalistically titled in a single word as is their trademark, and it makes me wonder if they're not half-dead by now; and only halfway to paradise with this particularly uneven effort with undeniable brilliance, still. The album was recorded in L.A. (a first for the UK team), near Elysium Park, so there's that to consider about the title as well, naturally.

A kind of dreamy, loungey electronica, the songs on this album offer a sophisticated, well articulated (not to mention enunciated) selection of melodies and ideas with typical Pet Shop wit. But the old Boys have mellowed and quieted down with age, sometimes giving me the feeling they might benefit from a little Geritol in their tea. Nonetheless, a track like "A Face Like That" harkens back to their retro-disco '90s vitality, proving they still have it in them; it's just harder to get out, as is often the case at a certain age.

"Winner" was well marketed by the Boys during the London Olympics, delivering unto them another international hit that currently races up the US Billboard dance chart (with thanks to remixes, I must add). The original album version is Beatlesy ballady business in style and vocal arrangement, another echo of yesteryear. It's electronica for the elderly, really.  Elysium opens with "Leaving," which admittedly might seem by its title that it should be the closing number; but it's nice, soft bossa electronica for those of us who need a gentle hip shaker.

The self-referential songs, "Your Early Stuff" and "Ego Music" are, respectively, clever and reminiscent of  80s New Wave music. Refusing to be disco dinosaurs to the bitter end (though I expect we'll ultimately hear more of them), our old Boys have taken the gentlemanly way out.

On the song "Invisible," Neil sings: "It's queer how gradually I've become invisible," giving voice to a feeling many gay men have about growing older. Invincible, actually, Neil; not Invisible. You're a Winner, I'm a Winner, we're all Winners....

(By the way, Neil Tennant really is one of my big celebrity crushes. )

I can only imagine old Boy might sing to me:

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