After 25 years in the pop music game, the Pet Shop Boys are back with an album on par with their best work. Their tenth studio album, Yes, out in the U.S. on April 21st, finds them returning to their electro-pop roots after a brief sonic departure.
“I tend to react against our previous albums and this is quite a reaction from the last one,” says frontman Neil Tennant of the group’s more epic last album, Fundamental.
Yes, which already went in at #4 in the UK and #3 in Germany, is similar to 1993’s Very with classic Pet Shop Boys beats and themes of escapism. “It seemed like the album had a sense of optimism about it,” says Tennant. “Not all of it, of course. As ever with the Pet Shop Boys, disaster is just around the corner.”
Former music journalist Tennant has always shone in the lyrical department and doesn’t disappoint on Yes. The single “Love etc” emphasizes the importance of love in life, over money, fame and celebrity—a kind of antidote to the band’s 1986 hit “Opportunities,” which is best known for it’s chorus “I’ve got the brains, you’ve go the looks/Let’s make lots of money.”
Tennant says the change in thought is a result of the times. “When ‘Opportunities’ was written Mrs. Thatcher was prime minister and the market was leading everything, and by the time ‘Love etc’ is released Obama is president and the markets have crashed, so it’s a whole historical era really book-ended by those two songs.
Not to worry, just two tracks later, Yes finds the guys returning to fabulosity, examining the glamorous allure of celebrity life on “Beautiful People,” with Tennant proclaiming, “I want to live like beautiful people.” “I sort of imagine that being sung by a woman in a bus queue in London,” he explains. “It’s raining and she turns around and there’s the magazine stand, and they’ve got Heat and OK, and Victoria Beckham or whoever is on the front cover, and she’s looking at it thinking ‘I wish I lived like that,’ so it’s looking at it sympathetically, at the sort of celebrity phenomenon.”
The Pet Shop Boys are certainly part of the celebrity culture in Britain, even recognized at this year’s Brit Awards (the UK’s equivalent to the Grammys) with the coveted Outstanding Contribution to Music Award, which has gone to British mainstay Oasis before them. The band performed a ten-minute medley filled with snippets of songs from their impressive body of work, and featured guest appearances by the Killers’ Brandon Flowers and Lady Ga Ga, and reminded the public just how much they love the Pet Shop Boys, which gave sales of the new album a boost.
“We’ve really tried right from the start to create a world like a novelist can create in his or her novels,” says Tennant of the fabulous world he and Chris Lowe have created for fans to escape to. “With our records we have tried to create a kind of Pet Shop Boys landscape, you know which has got people wearing coneheads, and Liza Minnelli sings in it, and Johnny Marr from the Smiths is in it, and Robbie Williams and Brandon Flowers.” He pauses and then jokes, “Suddenly it sounds like a Catholic mass.”
The guys will soon include ballet in their unique Pet Shop Boys world, as they’ve been commissioned to pen a ballet for Britain’s Royal Ballet for 2011. It will be based on a Hans Christian Anderson story (“We’re not saying which yet, but it’s not one of the famous ones,” says Tennant) and told through electronic music. But first, the duo plans to take Yes on the road, with a North American tour in the fall. Tennant says they’ve just begun working on the production, but promises to deliver the over-the-top “sense of theater” that their fans adore.