Pet Shop Boys - Yes
At the turn of the millennium, Snooty 'n' The Street, the Pet Shop Boys, found themselves teetering over that most feared of pop destinations...the dumper! Miraculously they managed to stage a prison break and crawl their way back to the frontpage with 2006's Fundamental. Although it contained swingorilliant corkers like Minimal and the operatically grandiose Casanova In Hell, only a gimp would contend it trumped their “Imperial Phase” from 1986-'91. But at least it was finally time to forgive and forget the “undiscussable” (i.e. Absolutely Fabulous).
So somewhat back in the game - and with Girls Aloud eggheads' Xenomania making the tea - we have the positively titled Yes and it feels fresh out of the box. Double stitching, well tailored, tidy. Prime mover Love etc is a classy bitch. The plink-plonk Duracell Bunny riff rattling beneath the surface is hypnotically cute but this kitten's got claws, “Don't have to wear a smile much colder than ice”. Similarly All Around The World, replete with Tchaikovsky sample, is reassuringly sophisticated and convincingly floors the pedal. It's born to be played loud and will no doubt sound a-mazing live. Built on a foundation of old skool R'n'B swing it's so cocky it even spins some Rhianna “Oh-we-oh's” into the hat. This is Olympian PSB.
Yes lives, sleeps and eats at the disco. Albeit an afternoon suit 'n' tie disco with vol-au-vents and Moet on tap. More Than A Dream, surely written with Girls Aloud in mind, is 100% proof Studio 54 heaven. Ditto the ecstatic Pandemonium, like an unexpected smile from a beautiful girl in the rain, it makes you want to run through the streets a-leaping and a-prancing like a giddy loon. It's technically impossible to listen to whilst seated and is a dead ringer for Diana Ross' Chain Reaction.
Long term Petheads will enjoy ticking off classic PSB motifs. The swinging pastel pants of Did you See Me Coming (fnar, fnar) fit neatly alongside Love Comes Quickly and So Hard in the Carry On, Pet Shop Boys series of songtitles. Vulnerable pulls the Latino strings like Domino Dancing and you can feel Tennant doing his trademark hand gestures throughout (Pfft! C'mon you know! - Aloof shrug? Upturned palms? Gentle finger waving?).
“Just drive through them, you can't stop theatre!!” Building A Wall is HILARIOUS. It's the League of Gentlemen's Legs Akimbo theatre group, “There’s no age limit on dealing with ISSUES, Dave!” It elevates to an indescribably odd crescendo where Neil extols British traditions (“Wasps in the tea??”) and Chris chastises him “Who do you think you are, Captain Britain??” It's both monu-mental and toe dissolvingly embarrassing. After much deliberation, I concede and grant it a working visa declaring it “So crap it's genius”. Off you trot, you crazy diamond.
Even though the album “pulls” at the disco, it's the slow jams in the Taxi home that really got me. The slipstream swoon of King of Rome is worthy of Behaviour - All mascara tears, soft focus and end of the party sorrow, “Oh baby call me today, I long for your inscrutable pale face”. Ruddy hell, how can that not break your heart? It would give me goosebumps in July. The Way It Used To Be is divorce-era Abba and even has Neil “No Sweat” Tennant fired-up by it's overwrought finale. A buxom femme fatale even appears stage right near its climax taking the theatrics beyond the backrow. It all ends in a cat fight of tantrums and tiaras and I'm guessing lots of melodramatic Agnetha / Annifrid style head-turning. Congratulatory bouquets fall like rain onto the stage. Dear Reader, it is.... a triumph!
“That's it, the end, but you'll get over it”. Like proper PSB albums the curtain falls with an epilogue of reflective melancholy. Over six minutes, Legacy packs in a French waltz, an Orchestral tsunami, the Carphone Warehouse and more theatrical contortions than a decade of Eastenders, “The bourgeoisie will get over it, Look at me I'm SO over it”. Living proof that pop still has brains, heart, hips and everything else despite the efforts of Simon “Soul Transplant” Cowell or Louis “Satan's Midget” Walsh.
Despite consistently sitting in the “above average” basket, there are some irksome flaws which sting a bit. Musically it's too polite, tame, too glossy Sunday supplement. It's wondrous pop undoubtedly but in 2009, wonkier Frankenstein electropop is de rigeur and occasionally the equilibrium of Xenomania and PSB tips out of balance. Disturbingly also the chorus of (the otherwise fine) Beautiful People sounds suspiciously like the theme from ropey '70's soap Crossroads. Pass the sickbag, Marcel.
Yet Yes is well worth a night on the tiles. Even when it ends with a slapped face, a ciggie in your pint and a Miss Piggy a-ha! volte face outta tha door you'll applaud. It reeks of class, expensive lunches and midnight limousines through cobbled rainy streets. Even if, like Eric Morecambe, it plays all the right notes but not always in the right order, Yes is still their most consistent album since Very. It is 'Very' PSB and suitably lavish. Form may be temporary, but the Pet Shop Boys' class is permanent.