Pet Shop Boys - Release

On the grand scale of things it may not be up there with Bob Dylan picking up an electric guitar, but the fact that Pet Shop Boys have ditched the electronic sound of old in favour of more guitar based music is likely to raise a few eyebrows. The Pet Shop Boys are Britain's premier synth pop by a mile and while the likes of Depeche Mode, Erasure and Soft Cell have had varying degree's of success throughout their careers, PSB's have been at the top of their game throughout both the 80s and the 90s.

"Home And Dry" gave the perfect indication of where the band are at right now, which much of the new direction owing to Johnny Marr's involvement in the album. While in the past PSB's use of Marr has been used to add a gentle flourish of guitar here and there amongst the swirling synths and disco beats, this time Marr's guitar works drives the album. "Release" is perhaps the bands most relevant album avoiding the camp stereotypes and taking in subjects such as Peter Mandleson on "I Get Along", Stephen Lawrence on "Birthday Boy", the story of a gay rapper in "The Night I Fell In Love" and that tired subject of the internet revolution on "E-Mail".

The aforementioned "I Get Along" is perhaps the biggest departure from the synth sound with an Oasis styled anthem destined to be sung in the terraces. Its about as far away as you can imagine from say "Go West" or "New York City Boys" and will leave several happily married men questioning whether its right to be singing Pet Shop Boys songs like you life depends on it. Likewise "The Night I Fell In Love" tackles the homophobic hip-hop community and offers the idea that maybe, just maybe, there are gay rappers hiding their true sexuality in order to further their career. Of course when its backed up with hilarious lines "Hey man! Your name isn't Stan, is it?" and "Over Breakfast made jokes about Dre and his homies and folks" asking for Eminem to put his foot in it once again.

With so many bands sticking to a tried and tested formula, its good to see that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have the guts and determination to stick their heads above the parapet and buck the trend of formalized pop. In fact the only two formulaic tracks on the album are "The Samurai In Autumn" and "Here" which stick to the limp dance formula of old and suffer all the more for it. While "Release" is one their career highlights, the only worry now is that they re-arrange old classics in the style of the new guitar sound and risk alienated their old fanbase.

Alex McCann

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