In addition to receiving the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award at this year's BRIT Awards, as well as celebrating twenty-five years together as a group, the Pet Shop Boys have released their tenth studio album, Yes. The album finds the duo confidently visiting the unique pop sound that has defined their career over the past quarter of a century.
"Love, Etc." starts things off, and is one of the strongest tracks to come from the duo in years. Thematically, it covers some traditional ground for Neil Tennant: the public's idolatry of fame, something that is echoed in several other cuts on the album. But it's the infectiousness of a well-crafted pop tune that sets it apart.
Another unifying theme for the Boys is musical inspiration that seems to be drawn as much from musicals as it does from mainstream pop. Both "All Over The World" and "Beautiful People" carry its DNA for this album. Unfortunately, the former is the only one of the two using it to satisfying effect. Although a bit camp at points, "All Over The World" is a catchy and sing-songy look at young love, whereas "Beautiful People" takes a more lazy stroll through generic Pet Shop Boys terrain.
And that's a problem mirrored throughout the rest of the record. There are songs on Yes that are as strong as anything the duo has put out, but they are unfortunately matched against some of the most disposable as well. "Building A Wall" is tedious in its plodding attempt at integrating a spoken-word edge to a bland track. "Vulnerable" is at least forgettable, but doesn't generate much stronger praise than that. "More Than A Dream" and closing track "Legacy" would have fared better as perhaps lesser deep cuts, were they not downstaged.
The low points are mainly disappointing because they are such an obvious contrast to other very strong tracks. "King of Rome" is a beautifully lush slower cut and one of the best from their past few albums. "Did You See Me Coming" and "Pandemonium" showcase pop immediacy at its most direct, melodies so catchy you can sing along during the first listen. And matched with some of the other successful tracks, the album leans more on the fun side of things than not.
Production outfit Xenomania was at the helm for this record, and also helped co-wrote three of the songs (including the lead single "Love, Etc."). Their imprint is subtle at best on Yes. For the most part these are very traditional-sounding Pet Shop Boys songs. The focus is definitely on very straight ahead pop dance tracks, and in that regard it shares a bit of style with Very. But more as the weaker version of a style that's been visited more successfully in the past. Not at all bad production, but certainly don't expect anything out of the ordinary.
Yes does just enough right to give hope for future material, but offers up enough weak tracks as well that its difficult to give it universal recommendation. Long time Pet Shop Boys fans will not be disappointed, as Tennant and Lowe have not sunk back to Bilingual lows by any stretch, but beyond the single and a few other tuneful tracks it probably won't be enough to win new converts.