ALBUM REVIEW: Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

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X2 Records/Kobalt

Released: 24.01.20





During the promotional push for their somewhat elegiac 2012 album, Elysium, Tennant and Lowe received a very short iTunes review from an irate fan that demanded simply “more banging and more lasers”. Rather than dismiss this as the rantings of a lone keyboard warrior, they took it to heart, enlisted esteemed super producer Stuart Price and headed back to Berlin in search of a new direction and a new sound. The result was (literally) Electric, fusing their impeccable skill for a great pop hook with a harder electronic edge, it placed PSB right back at the vanguard of the progressive electronic-pop world with a stonking collection of tunes that were way more at home in a warehouse club that a ‘back to the 80s’ school disco. Electric become their highest charting UK album since 1993s Very. With the bit firmly between their teeth, they repeated the formula to even greater effect on 2016 album, Super.

Recorded (primarily) in Berlin’s legendary Hansa Ton studios, Hotspot, completes the Stuart Price trilogy, closing another imperial phase in their remarkable 40-year career. Exquisitely produced throughout, Hotspot is coloured with a far greater spectrum of light and shade than its predecessors, expertly wrapping heartbreak and hurt in a pure synth euphoria that will have you dancing with tears in your eyes.

There are truly inspired moments throughout; opener, Will O the Wisp is an absolute cracker, nailing the big room banger to a Berlin drama about a “city where men don’t wait in vain”, Dreamland (featuring Years & Years) relocates Go West from the coast of San Francisco to Aleppo, Happy People is  100% perfect pop, whilst Monkey Business fixes the spotlight firmly on superstar hedonism, punctuated with Daft Punk vocoders and a wall of stuttering disco synths and brass stabs, it’s about as far  from West End Girls  as it’s possible to get, it’s also one of the best pop singles they’ve recorded in the last 30 years. Closing the record with the frankly barmy Wedding in Berlin is an interesting idea. Whilst the lyrical sentiment is a worthy one, combining bland Euro-pop with Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was never going to turn out well. It’s a real shame because it distracts from what is, without question, one of Pet Shop Boys’ strongest albums to date. After four decades in pop, PSB are still as vital as ever.


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