Entering a remarkable fifth decade in pop, ‘Hotspot’ is Pet Shop Boys’ 14th studio record and is the final part of a trilogy of records produced by electro pop whizz Stuart Price. The previous two installments ‘Electric’ and ‘Super’ were predominantly poppers o’clock banger filled sugar rushes but ‘Hotspot’ rounds things off with a lovingly crafted variety pick and mix of all the flavours that keep Pet Shop Boys at the top of their game.
While the defining sound is electronic as ever, each track is coloured with a subtly different shade of electro giving a pleasingly diverse dynamic to the record. ‘Will O The Wisp’ is as imposing an opener as they have ever managed with it’s heavy pulsating beats soundtracking an ode to evergreen hedonism in the ‘Left To My Own Devices’ mode. It even features a trademark low key hilarious spoken word bridge that marks it out as a PSB classic. Immediately following is the twinkling beauty of ‘You Are The One’ and it’s this contrast of light and shade that makes ‘Hotspot’ so compelling.
All the hallmarks of prime Pet Shop Boys are present and correct and they have lost none of their wit and piercing lyrical eye. You could imagine the wistful ‘Hoping For A Miracle’ as a subtly damning takedown of the flawed Brexit dream while ‘Dreamland’ in collaboration with Olly Alexander from Years & Years is the kind of up-tempo empowering conscious anthem that they excel at.
The defining characteristic of ‘Hotspot’ is of a more lyrical album and, indeed, the more diverse musical palette including acoustic guitars provided by Bernard Butler and horn solo on single ‘Burning The Heather’ allow for a more ruminative melancholy approach. After every big night on the dancefloor you always need a comedown to reflect. The HI-NRG fevered pop of tracks like ‘Happy People’ and the playful ‘Monkey Business’ though show that Tennant and Lowe have lost none of their capacity for dancefloor exuberance but with this album they’ve perfected their journey of the last decade of connecting with their musical past while pointing a way towards the future.
Words: Martyn Young
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