Pet Shop Boys
It is ironic; in a decade where music either reflected the ironic detachment of its listeners or wallowed in angst and ennui, that a band renowned for emotional distance within their music should release the most moving album of the year. Although they have abandoned the Latin rhythms utilized on their last album, Bilingual , they have retained the trademark Pet Shop Boys elements: Neil Tennant’s near falsetto voice and Chris Lowe’s Euro-disco compositions. In addition, they’ve incorporated male and female back-up singers on several of Nightlife ‘s tracks.
The album begins with “For Your Own Good,” in which the narrator entreats a prospective lover to call him. The poignancy of the song rests on the narrator’s lover remaining unnamed. The lyrics should capture anyone who has ever wasted a night waiting for someone to call. The emotion is exhilarating when it is certain that they will call but becomes unpalatable terror when, by 3 AM., they have failed to.
The fifth track, “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk,” utilizes a country and western framework in the music. Although the performance on this disc is less guitar-centered than the version they have been playing in concert, it is still a fun song.
One of the last tracks on Nightlife is the moving “in Denial.” This is a duet with Kylie Minogue in which she addresses a father who refuses to come out of the closet. The song contains one of the finest lyrical twists I have heard this year when she sings “You’re not admitting, you should be quitting all these Queens and fairies and Muscle Marys.” I approached this track with no small trepidation when I read a review of it. I expected a track that virtually oozed with maudlin pretension. Instead, I was surprised with a brilliant mini-epic reminiscent of the works Noel Coward and others.
On Nightlife , the Pet Shop Boys have created an album as evocative as Pulp’s This is Hardcore and reminiscent of old Kraftwerk albums. In many ways, this album is a tie with Everything but the Girl’s Temperamental album in that both juxtapose dance beats and upbeat dance rhythms against haunting lyrics. Nightlife is an album to put on when the clubs have closed; it’s 4 AM, and as you try to sleep your conscience is permeated by thoughts of HER (or HIM) while your brain still pulses with the club’s dance rhythms.
Sire Records, 936 Broadway, New York, NY 10010; http://www.sirerecords.com