Pet Shop Boys
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2000, Volume 7, #5
Written by Michael Karpinski
Who would have guessed that nearly a decade-and-a-half after sashaying their way to the top of the U.S. singles charts, the Pet Shop Boys would still be successfully peddling that most over-bred (and under-fed) of music biz animals — the unabashedly campy dance-pop ditty. Long after their Friend-of-Dorothy cohorts Dead or Alive, Soft Cell, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood packed up their ruby Guccis and hit the road back to monochromatic Kansas, fortysomethings Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are still kicking out the Technicolor jams in an industry driven by bland boy bands, navel-shakin' teen divas, and leather-slacked Latin lotharios with all the spice and substance of watered-down salsa.
Upon initial listen, Nightlife may come as something of a let-down to Pet Shop patrons expecting anything as out-and-out infectious as past classics What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money), or the Dorian Gray-ageless West End Girls. If provided the time to simmer and quicken, however, the record eventually insinuates itself as one of the duo's most consistent discs to date. As usual, the Boys weave their themes around the delicate dichotomy of desire and disillusionment — a dichotomy endemic but hardly exclusive to the male homosexual milieu. Juxtaposing blind, pie-in-the-sky optimism (i.e. "denial") with an almost indelible air of despair, the tracks here run the gamut from traditional club-thumpers (the solid, if somewhat by-the-numbers, Village People pastiche New York City Boy) to melodramatic ballads (the irresistibly over-the-top In Denial). On Closer to Heaven, Tennant ratchets his sweetly synthesized falsetto up to near-Bee Gees frequencies, while Happiness is an Option weds majestically multi-stacked vocals to the melody of Rachmaninov's ghostly Vocalise. Finally, Tennant's penchant for independent clause song titles and cynicism-driven wit manifests itself to stellar effect on the tracks I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore and You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk — both of which seem destined to achieve signature-song status in the ever-expanding PSB canon.
While it seems unlikely the Pet Shop Boys will ever again ascend the U.S. singles charts, their sleek and beguiling beats still speak to the hearts and hips of discriminating listeners all across this raucous collage of a continent. From West Hollywood to the West Village — from the West Virginia to West Texas — the Pet Shop Boys continue to proffer music of inclusion, entirely irrelevant of one's station on the gay-straight spectrum. ½
Nightlife is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box