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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Pet Shop Boys

MUSIC REVIEWS

Pet Shop Boys-Fundamental (Rhino)

Dance music is at a completely different place than it was twenty years ago when The Pet Shop Boys first exploded onto the scene with their debut album Please and number one single "West End Girls."  At the time the band's mix of disco and oh-so-civilized white boy rap was revolutionary.  In a club culture now more attuned to techno beats and hip hop you fear that the sound would be a little quaint.

Glad to report it isn't.  Fundamental is the band's best album since 1993's unjustly overlooked gem Very. (Yes, all their albums have one-word titles, what of it?)  One of the big reasons that it is such a success is that the band is no longer trying to be something it is not and insert modern dance moves into their classic sound. 

The group shows they still have a way with a ballad on the truly gorgeous, moody "I Made My Excuses and Left," the sweetly psychedelic "Luna Park" and "Numb," which could be the showstopper in a Broadway musical not yet made.

The band also still has a way with a disco-fied dance beat, shaking their booty (in a polite, British, repressed way of course) on "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show" and "Minimal."  However, as you can tell from the titles, stupid little subjects like dancing, screwing and ecstasy are not going to fly with these guys.  The songs may get your rump moving, but the ideas also keep your mind spinning. 

Strangely, the one slight misfire in that regard is "I'm With Stupid" -- quite probably the Boys' most overtly political song.  (In fact, Fundamental in general is very much about the world at war.)  Giving a retro-dance beat to lyrics which explore the dysfunctional relationship between George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair seems a fascinating contradiction.  The song actually makes some very valid points, but surprisingly the lyrics are a little more simplistic than you expect from the literate and witheringly sarcastic social observers behind older songs like "Opportunities," "Rent," "Being Boring" and "Suburbia" -- or even "Luna Park" and "Psychological" here.

There is something truly comforting and laudable about the fact that the Pet Shop Boys have returned so convincingly to their old sound and are no longer even trying to flirt with the prevailing dance club techno beats.  Fundamental is classic Pet Shop Boys, and if you liked that sound in the 80s this disk will be like going home.  (7/06)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.  Posted: July 13, 2006.

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Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.  Posted: July 13, 2006.