There’s a great synth-pop legend that says upon first hearing New Order’s seminal single “Blue Monday,” Neil Tennant actually wept because he felt like New Order had beat the Pet Shop Boys to the artistic punch. In other words, “Blue Monday” was musically and aesthetically everything that Tennant, along with Chris Lowe, had hoped to achieve with the Pet Shop Boys. The jury’s still out on whether or not the story is true; it’s hard to get a straight answer from Tennant. If it is true, it hardly matters now. The Pet Shop Boys are still together and despite two slight missteps in their catalog (1999’s Nightlife and 2002’s Release), they have remained a vital and continuously relevant pop act, whereas New Order were simply unable to keep things together.
Yes is the PSB’s tenth studio album and it has arrived at a time in pop music history where a great deal of the world’s most important new music continuously pays tribute to the greatest acts of the 1980s (PSB, Depeche Mode, New Order, OMD, etc.). The synthesizer is back and in full effect. So it’s refreshing to get the real deal from some of the boys who inspired this neo-New Wave phenomenon. The PSB were always nestled nicely somewhere between New Order and The Smiths and they’ve managed to survive musically and culturally in a world where most of their contemporaries have long since disappeared.
The first track on Yes, which is also the album’s first single, “Love Etc.,” is about as good a PSB song as you’re likely to ever hear and it’s puzzling knowing that it’s a dance single penned by two English lads who are well over the hill. “Love Etc.” is as urgent and immediate as anything else being played in the clubs and it kicks off an exceedingly strong batch of synth-driven pop tunes. This disc was coproduced by the UK-based mega-pop production machine Xenomania (Cher, Kylie Minogue), who also co-wrote a few of the album’s tracks (“Love Etc.,” “More Than A Dream,” and “The Way It Used To Be”). In addition, as is standard these days for anyone semi-important making a record in
Unlike 1996’s Fundamental, there is hardly a low-point on Yes, and Tennant and Lowe have skipped over any slow-burners, opting instead for perpetual and relentless electro-thud perfection (“More Than A Dream,” “Building A Wall”). For the first time in a long time, the PSB have made a record loaded with single release potential; each and every song pulls its weight it terms of strength, danceability and pop prowess.
Upon its release in 1996, critics all over claimed that Fundamental was a welcomed “return to form,” but these claims simply never made sense. The Pet Shop Boys never abandoned their original formula; there was a never a time when they had “lost it.” So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this is such a strong record because the PSB have always stuck to their guns and done what they do best. Yes is the best Pet Shop Boys record since 1993’s Very and one that’s sure to please critics, fans and newcomers.
But we already knew it would.