Throughout their long celebrated career, the Pet Shop Boys’ album titles have uniformly been one word. That word might signal the theme of the album or the sound of the record. But what their titles always manage is to represent the gracefulness and simplicity of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s work. ‘Super’, their 13th studio album, suggests the duo are perfectly at ease with their place in the world right now. It’s a record that’s frequently playful, vibrant and witty and shows off all the hallmarks of classic Pet Shop Boys.
Following on from 2013’s ‘Electric’, their new effort again sees the duo teaming up with producer Stuart Price. As with their previous album, their sound - while completely electronic - comes ramped up to another level. Frequent, frantic builds and drops, whooshes and exultant crescendos abound throughout, while opener ‘Happiness’ sets the high-energy tone.
Electronics from various eras also dominate across the full-length: the booming ‘Inner Sanctum’ recalls EDM’s monstrous power while the luxurious house pop of ‘Groovy’, with its insistent piano and twinkling synths, is pure PSB pop. Elsewhere, ‘Undertow’ is the kind of uproarious pop rush that could scale the charts in any era.
Part of what makes the Pet Shop Boys special has always been the relationship between the music and Neil Tennant’s lyrics. Here, his deft lyrical touch offers evocative and moving imagery that counteracts the vim and vigor of the music. Lead single ‘The Pop Kids’ is a fine example, with lines like ‘They called us the pop kids, cause we loved the pop hits and quoted the best bits,” opitimising exactly how a true music fan feels every day. It’s a nostalgic retro house anthem that manages to capture the essence of pop music as escapism for all the pop kids out there; no one knows more about its importance than Tennant, after all.
It’d be easy to label each new album by a classic act as a return to form but that’s not a phrase that applies to here. Instead, ‘Super’ is confirmation of their position at the head of the pop pantheon with an album brimming with excitement and fizzing with energy.