Archive for Pet Shop Boys

The holiday playlist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2012 by softsynth

So it’s December and all that and while Softsynth may seem the cynic, he still appreciates the holiday season. In fact now that the Month of Ho is upon us the Softsynth Holiday Playlist has been added to the iPod and is in full play mode. This year’s playlist will be familiar to those who have followed this blog lo these last few years, and as always, if you know of something that should be here that isn’t (yet) shout ‘er out! Continue reading

Review: Pet Shop Boys – Elysium

Posted in Review with tags on September 14, 2012 by softsynth

We so want to hear a Pet Shop Boys album that makes us believe again. We’ve tread this ground before but it bears repeating.

This blogger had formally and wholeheartedly run headlong into the warm embrace of electronic music around 1984/85 after dabbling as any child of the early 80s would have found themselves dabbling (dayum Mr. Softsynth, you old!). When Pet Shop Boys suavely elbowed their way into the scene at the tail end of this Period of Discovery they were a lovely addition to the quiver. While old-lady-bones-dry there was also a dollop of cheek and a sense of post disco fun. Please was genius. Actually was so full of hooks you’d have sworn there was a gnarly fisherman in the mix. All the way through to Behaviour, with its oddly sexless sex and painfully clever wordplay, they knew had to spin a yarn coupled with a gorgeous synth riff.

Then something started to go off the rails. Even the band seemed bored and couldn’t be bothered wedging in any feeling or life to the admittedly consistent and prolific output.

Yet those fond memories linger still, so much so that we yearn for each new album to rekindle that sense of magic. But what was lost has yet to be found again. There is no soul, nor any heart in recent output. Sadly Elysium is no exception.  Continue reading

Electronic music for the holidays, 2010 edition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by softsynth

Tis the season and all that. Each year Softsynth, like so many, starts to slowly get into the holiday spirit and accordingly, we get the hankering for a little seasonal music. Last year we saw a few holiday-related songs get added to the pile, like Pet Shop Boys merely okay “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas”, Tori Amos’ lovely seasonal album, Midwinter Graces, Liquid 360’s “Change Has Come (For Christmas)”, Rush Coil’s kind of neat 8-bit holiday album, 8-Bit Christmas and thanks to reader Michael we got our hands on a copy of the late, lamented Book of Love’s weird, and thoroughly enjoyable take on “We Three Kings”. This year we’re very much enjoying The Golden Filter’s fantastic “White Nights”, a Psychic TV cover that’s made for a lovely holiday tune (and available for free download at their web site). There’s also Hurts’ brand new seasonally-cheesy but still kind of nice “All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day” and we’re very excited to hear Saint Etienne’s new Christmas album, A Glimpse Of Stocking. But other than the above, a handful of songs helpfully suggested by our readers last year, and stand-bys like Venus Hum’s always great Switched on Christmas, the “old faithful”, Electric Fantastic Xmas (a must-own for electronic fans), and of course Erasure’s Crackers International and Crackers International Part II, and not a whole lot more from our genre. The self-serious electronic community rarely deign to throw out holiday-themed songs – once a fan club staple for many bands in days gone by – as it is often seen to compromise the cred they’ve spent years trying to build.

So our annual holiday lament: if we want to get into the holiday spirit, whatever you celebrate, the only refuge from the traditional standards remain the small handful of tracks spun out from within our genre, and occasional dips into the South Park Christmas album and of course the umpteenth playing of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”…

(Anything else new out there in the way of electronic holiday tunes…?)

Watch: All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day

The Softsynth seasonal playlist

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by softsynth

We blogged last year about the dearth of holiday-themed alternative music, especially electronic music for the season. One year on and the picture isn’t much brighter. Why should we care? Well, even the most cynical among us (and Softsynth is the very embodiment of cynicism) can’t help but get caught up in at least elements of the season, whatever you may celebrate and seasonal music is a big part of the scene. It’s ubiquitous – you simply cannot escape it, especially if you travel about with say, two Softsynth Jr’s in tow who want to get their Xmas on. so how does a fan of alternative and/or electronic music survive the season and still play along? Continue reading

(Mini) Review: Pet Shop Boys – Christmas

Posted in Review with tags , on November 28, 2009 by softsynth

Well, we’ll say this, after ranting this time last year about the dearth of electronic music for the season, good on the PSBs for doing their part. The problems are the same as with their last album Yes, there’s nothing new here. It’s the same synth sounds, the same melodies, the same Neil Tennant unaltered, undeveloped vocal. Ultimately – a little boring.

The main raison d’etre here is the song, “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas”, and it’s much what you’d expect. Seasonal choir effects, references to Bing Crosby, a snippet of Hark the Herald, et al, but essentially it sounds like every other PSBs song with a seasonal flare only trying a little too hard. Little new here. And it’s the only seasonally themed track here. In fact the whole EP is a retread, the lead song was a fan club track from a few years back, there’s a not-half-bad version of Yes track “All Over the World”, and a terrible retread of “Domino Dancing” mixed with Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”. The only thing that’s “new” is a dull-as-dirt version of Madness’ “My Girl”.

The whole thing feels a little cynical and pointless, but that said always nice to hear some electronic bands getting into the spirit of the season, whatever they may celebrate. We just wish a little more imagination went into it…

A second glance – reviewing the reviews

Posted in Commentary, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by softsynth

Usually a review is largely based on first impressions; one will listen to a new album a few times to get a feel for it and go with one’s gut. But what’s interesting to see if that initial impression sticks. The main reason I wanted to revisit some reviews/first impressions was my sense that I felt let down by Depeche Mode’s Sounds of the Universe. My initial impression was wrapped up in a relief and inherent excitement around their return to form using electronics with a purity they had not in decades. But the more I live with the album the more I am struck by how underwhelming I find the songwriting. Nothing stands out – lots of ‘good songs, Wrong, Corrupt, In Chains, Peace – but nothing that stands as “outstanding”, unique or a serious meaningful addition to the DM pantheon. 

Initial impression > current impression.

At the same time I was cautiously pleased with the new IAMX release, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, which was simply “better than I thought/feared it was going to be”. On many, many (many!) listens later, the album feels like such a breath of fresh air, so perfect in tone, so spot-0n in terms of production and songwriting prowess, so emotionally powerful it feels like the album of the year so far. Put on the headphones, crank it up and listen to the title track, or Shipwreck of Life or I Am Terrified, or best of all, Teargarden and tell you you aren’t moved emotionally and even physically by the power of this magnificent album. I was way off base in my lukewarm treatment of the record.

Initial impression < current impression. Continue reading

Some brief thoughts on Pet Shop Boys’ disappointing new album

Posted in Review with tags , on March 26, 2009 by softsynth

This doesn’t count as an official review because every time I sat down to write a review over the past few weeks I realized the unique soul-sucking power of this album simply made me tired. So this is the quick and dirty version.

I need to say, I appreciate Pet Shop Boys; their continued presence is comforting. They come from an era represented by ever-fewer living, breathing bands, especially from the electro scene of the mid-80s, where a small grouping of bands kept alive the movement when the Golden Age (1980-85) was fading into history. I like they they still do what they always did so well, that even when they have experimented they have remembered what made them a solid, productive, prolific, and sometimes great band once upon a time. On the same note, their last album, Fundamental, was a solid, clever, entertaining album with some really enjoyable, listenable songs like “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” and “Casanova In Hell”. However, the latest effort, Yes, released wide today, shows a band without anything new to say. 

Again, not a detailed review because the album doesn’t deserve it, but suffice it to say, this sounds like any other nondescript PSB album, with interchangable riffs, droned/spoken Neil Tennant vocals and too-cute-by-half song titles (“King of Rome”, indeed). Lead-off single, “Love etc.” is the best of the lot, and a smart single choice but even it is almost instantly forgettable, and bears too close a resemblance to their take on the Village People’s “Go West” (you can go through the album and match each track to the remarkably similar, but superior earlier PSB song). The rest all blends together into one endless morass. Were this a proper review I would take you through each track and point out where each is wanting, but really, I can’t raise the ire.

Instead, go pick up a copy of Fundamental if you don’t yet own it and hope that is is either a major but forgivable slip-up soon to be corrected with a little newfound imagination or the bitter end, at long last.

Watch “Love, etc”: