Arts, Features

REVIEW: Pet Shop Boys continue long-burning presence with “Hotspot”

The Pet Shop Boys, a duo of neo-synth-pop musicians originating from London, released their fourteenth studio album, “Hotspot,” Friday. 

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have sold more than 50 million records worldwide and were listed in the Guinness Book of Records as one of the most successful duos in U.K. music history.

The British techno-pop duo Pet Shop Boys, which includes lead singer Neil Tennant, shown performing in a 2011 concert, released their new album “Hotspot” Friday. COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Pet Shop Boys have been around for nearly four decades and have kept up with enough listeners to still be thriving, but this was my first time truly listening to their genre of music. When one listens to the duo for the first time they can expect a lot of low-tone, more intimate songs mixed in with a few upbeat club-like singles.

The album’s cover art appears on the spookier side, alluding to the intimacy placed in the song lyrics, with two silhouettes with a brown watercolor-like overwash. Very mysterious, but very beautiful.

The songs with fewer techno elements allowed the listener to hear the lyrics, which were written with great delicacy and storytelling. 

My favorite song on the album was “Burning the heather,” which resembled The 1975. It was on the slower side, but the techno creates the soft undertone of the song. The line “time is so heartless” stood out the most because with time passing so quickly as we age or become happy, it can feel so cruel. 

My second favorite goes to “Hoping for a miracle” because it has the techno undertone similar to “Burning the heather,” but also because resembles soft rock produced in the 1990’s or early 2000’s. 

The opening lyrics, “On Waterloo Bridge, you got lost in the fog / Performing a crazy monologue about love and luck / And do they coincide? / And how you can feel disqualified / With no room for maneuver,” create a great image of the setting in the listeners’ mind. 

“Monkey business” has more of the synth-pop genre sound. Electric beats are centerfold in the song and the men sing in very low tones for the majority of the song. During the chorus, “I’m looking for monkey business (Monkey business) / Just playing around / I’m here on monkey business (Monkey business) / And look what I found (Look what I found),” the duo shouts the lyrics, which was less pleasant. 

“Monkey business” has a funky music video that the Pet Shop Boys recently released, which showcases a few men and women lip syncing the lyrics as they dance up and down a stairwell that leads to a dance floor at what appears to be a club. Many are dressed up in a variety of outfits including extravagant gowns, sailor suits and glitter-y tops.

“Will-o-the-wisp” is another song listeners may find more challenging to connect with due to the mismatch of lyrics and techno beats. Bouncing between the slower songs and the more upbeat ones proved challenging to the listener.

“Happy people” felt like the “Monster Mash” meets 2000s electronic, providing the unexpected urge to dance along. Maybe it served as a reminder of a happy childhood. The deep and low voice that filled the space for the chorus made the “need to dance” feeling disappear.

The producers behind many of the songs on “Hotspot” found a good harmony between the upbeat electronic music and the meaningful lyrics accompanying them. 

The album “Hotspot” was multidimensional. With some songs heavy in syntho-pop and others calmer and less electronic-based, it caters towards the interests of a variety of listeners. 

Although this album will not be my right-hand man, I do have to say that the Pet Shop Boys are still in it for the long run. To be able to produce a fourteenth album and maintain four million monthly listeners on Spotify, you must be doing something right.

One Comment

  1. Peter Rampion Clark

    You didn’t mention my favorite song, next to WOTW — “I don’t wanna”, with a truly insanely addictive refrain, “I don’t wanna go out; I don’t wanna go dancing.”

    The way Neil sings the word “dancing” is unreal, and humorous to boot.