Review: Pet Shop Boys - Fundamental


26 May 2006, 19:09

Four years since their last full album, Pet Shop Boys return with Fundamental (not yet in the database), an upbeat triumph of dance pop. Whereas 2002's Release was a mellow, guitar-y effort somewhat compensated for by the great electroclash tracks on Disco 3, Fundamental comes out of the gate all dance, with clubby beats and wonderfully intelligent pop songs.

Trevor Horn's production is impeccable. Largely electronic but with several acoustic or electric touches, he avoids the cliche and the done-to-death, except for passing moments where it's served up with tongue in cheek (see I'm With Stupid, below). The Boys are very capable producers themselves, so it's very interesting to see who they choose to work with, and Trevor certainly comes through with flying colours. The production never sounds like it's "trying too hard". It's slick and beautifully put-together, contrasting minimalist spaces with dense orchestrations, quiet moments with floor-filling beats.

Many of songs feature long ambient intros with sound effects and building orchestration, as if they were part of a movie soundtrack, taken from the film with their surrounding context intact. It contributes to making the album feel like a cohesive whole, and not just a collection of pop songs. Great to hear in the day of the iPod, where albums seem to be a dying breed.

Track one, Psychological, sticks to a minimal groove throughout, until the bridge hits with a serious "HOLY SHIT" impact. Then 10 seconds later, we're back into the groove and a slow build to a satisfying ending. The build-up and tension leading into the bridge are paid off beautifully when it hits.

The Sodom and Gomorrah Show begins with a cheesy announcer voice adverising the merits of this Biblical extravaganza. But don't be put off. The song is a marvel of ELO-tinged pop artistry. Instantly catchy despite words like "divine intervention", I was singing along the first time I heard it.

Minimal, with its "M-I-N-I-M-A-L" spelling chorus reminds me of the PSB classic Shopping, which used this same songwriting trick almost 20 years ago. But that should not detract from "Minimal" with its Peter Hook/New Order bass solo and big building arrangement.

Numb is a gorgeous orchestral rock-pop ballad. A very interesting contrast is made between the very dry TR808 drum machine through the verses, moving to big live rock drums in the chorus. Very powerful. One of Neil Tennant's best vocal performances, emotion and hurt show through despite his expressed desire to lose all feeling.

Lead off single I'm With Stupid is a deliberately late '80's-themed synthpop number. This has "hit" written all over it, both club and radio. Classic PSB, very clever lyrics written about feeling superior to your romantic partner.

It's hard to pick favourites out of the 12 songs after only a couple of listens. Everything is very strong, and although I've pointed out a few initial favourites, my preferred tracks may shift over time and repeated exposures. This is often the way with favourite albums, and this one is certainly well on its way to becoming one of those favouurites.

The Pet Shop Boys' best since Very. Four and a half stars.


  • Mylenemym

    I love the ambient intro of I Made My Excuses and Left. When I listen to it with my mp3 player whenever I'm not home, I instantely drift away to my own world. I like the way you compare intros to movie soundtracks. For this song, the intro completely takes me away from real life, just like a movie indeed.

    27 May 2006, 21:01
  • joosen

    I haven't bougth any of PSB's albums since Bilingual, but this one is really as good as you said. I must say I was a bit sceptic about the 4.5 star rating, but the album really does deserve it! I just hope that the album would get the sales and publicity it deserves....

    12 Jun 2006, 10:09
  • trekkie

    I didn't know they'd released it, must have come out on CD first as it showed up in the iTunes Music Store on 6/13

    13 Jun 2006, 13:38
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