April 16, 2009

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Pet Shop Boys, Yes
Astralwerks Records, April 21

’80s kids probably recall Pet Shop Boys’ radio staple “West End Girls” in different terms than they do forever-cursed ’80s anachronisms like Tears For Fears and whatnot, bands that instantly conjure Reagan-era tax-break kerfluffles, a psychotic Wall Street and the country’s first wave of credit-card-murdering 20somethings. Ditto for their other hits, all kept high afloat by Neil Tennant’s matter-of-fact wispy lisp, which sought timelessness within the confines of early electropop.

A very sweet album, Yes refuses to belie the band’s ’80s roots — I swear they’re using the same drum machine they had in ’86 — but also stands as acknowledgement that the days of chasing fleeting flesh in bars are over; love is now the mission. That stuff’s spoon-fed at the get-go, in “Love etc,” with Tennant singing, over a happy-go-lucky Atari progression, “It’s tough getting on in the world when the sun doesn’t shine,” at which point their flag of trademark — livable but rainy loneliness — is unfurled, all in a ditty that almost could have come from a mid-career Wire album. “All Over the World,” punctuated with a cheese-blasted version of one of the Nutcracker movements, is pure brilliance at the chorus, like Enya gone London and male; “Beautiful People” places tongue in very subtle cheek, inviting listeners to do a little growing up of their own. They’ve been loving themselves some Massive Attack, too, if you listen to “King of Rome” closely. A+Eric W. Saeger