Album review: Pet Shop Boys Hotspot

John Preston
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As promised, the third in a trilogy of records produced by electro whiz-kid Stuart Price finds Pet Shop Boys dialling back the bpms and settling on a predominantly mid-tempo, and often middling, mood.

Their 14th album is one where you might find yourself second guessing, for the first time, some of the samples used in its choruses and verses. If you have the energy to investigate further, you might end up spending more time listening to ‘Left to My Own Devices’ and ‘Love Comes Quickly’ than the songs on Hopspot and it certainly doesn’t bode well for this new collection of songs by comparing them.

The moments that work the best are, somewhat ironically, those which make up the more higher energy and therefore harder to find tracks. Whilst the saggy muddle of ‘Dreamland’ and the attempt of disco spaciousness on ‘Monkey Business’ fall flat from the get-go, ‘Will-o-the-Wisp’ and ‘Happy People’ both clang and rattle their way forward with conviction and excitement, Price’s production and prowess with synths and sequencers becoming untouchable.

Album closer ‘Wedding in Berlin’, however, takes a tough house groove and wastes it with a song that fails to materialise and repeated use of ‘The Wedding March’. Who knew Neil Tennant would be such an advocate of something as institutional and retrograde as marriage?

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Last year’s Agenda EP, a release so under the radar that even super-fans seemed oblivious of its existence, was as cynical and angry as the PSB get, a constant but varying mind-set which has always made them such an interesting pop proposition. Hopspot is not that kind of record and the warm and often crowded soundscapes here endorse the cozy and nostalgic melancholy that lacks any real edge or experimentation.

PSB ballads have been as an essentIal part of their incredible legacy as have the bangers but here tracks like ‘Burning the Heather’ and ‘You Are the One’ just plod politely by with little emotional weight or presence. An average Pet Shop Boy’s record then and one for diehards only.