Expecting a pop group in their 27th year together to still be competing with the energy of a new act is obviously a tall order, but the Pet Shop Boys have always been been unusually chart-savvy and resistant to fading onto the nostalgia cicuit, which makes the lingering sense of defeatism surrounding their new album ‘Elysium’ particularly disappointing. Lead single Winner – almost apologetically pushed out to coincide with the Olympics -made nary a dent on the charts; partly due to a lack of promotion and partly due to it being really rubbish and depressing.
Of course, some of the very best Pet Shop Boys songs are massively depressing; Being Boring, Dreaming of the Queen, You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk. But Elysium is largely the sound of a great band finally running out of steam – dreary and half-hearted where they used to be dynamic and regal. Not everyone loved their collaboration with Girls Aloud hitmakers Xenomania on their last album’s lead single ‘Love Etc.’ but for me it was classic Pet Shop Boys, with an energy that’s desperately lacking on the new record.
No Pet Shop Boys release is ever a total washout though, and thankfully they’ve pulled out by far the best song on it for their next single. ‘Leaving’ isn’t going to join Go West on wedding disco dancefloors 20 years from now – if it even cracks the top 75 it’ll be a minor miracle – but it’s a classic Neil Tennant love song, with some of the best lyrics he’s ever written. It’s enough to give me hope that – even if their hitmaking days look to be irrevocably behind them – the album merely represents a blip on the radar, rather than the last gasp of two of our greatest and most underappreciated pop statesmen.
Our love is dead
but the dead are still alive
In memory and thought
And the context they provide…