Album: Pet Shop Boys

Fundamental, PARLOPHONE
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The Independent Culture

The promotional insert included with Fundamental brings into sharp relief the broad range of ages and cultures across which the Pet Shop Boys' appeal operates. Can there be any older artists flogging ringtones to teens?

It's a pertinent point with regard to this latest PSB project, since although the sounds and merchandise are aimed at the young, the lyrical drift of Fundamental continues to mine themes of a more mature, reflective bent. Beneath the throbbing synths and dancefloor grooves, there's a pervasive vein of disillusion and regret that speaks loudly of the knocks of experience, and which lends their music a piquant aspect that sets it apart from anything else you're likely to hear in happy clubland.

Indeed, this conundrum is itself the subject of several songs here, as Neil Tennant ponders the relative weight of age and experience set against youth and enthusiasm. "Is it a cry for help/ Or call to arms?" he wonders in the opening "Psychological", a confident, assertive treatment of uncertainty, before laying out his stall more clearly in "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show", where his ambivalent attitude to hedonist dissipation is broached in a cheerily ironic manner: "It's got everything you need for your complete entertainment and instruction/ Sun, sex, sin, divine intervention, death and destruction".

The illusory contentments of bread and circuses, and the doomed, temporary nature of hedonist escape are again tackled in "Luna Park", which manages to be at once celebratory and elegiac, with its references to how "on the shooting range the plastic prizes never change". The youthful thrill of revolution is found wanting in comparison to the security of the familiar in "Twentieth Century", while the transience of pleasure is tackled in "Casanova In Hell", with the sexual pathos of the libertine's fading libido being desperately disguised by his retreat into words: "What he will write/ Will recall the bite/ Of his wit/ And legendary appetite".

It echoes the sombre tone and the premium placed on appearances in "I Made My Excuses And Left", the best track on the album. Here, Tennant is at his most Bogarde-ly reserved and English, embarrassed at discovering a partner's infidelity: "I felt I should apologise/ For what I hadn't heard".

Reuniting the duo once again with Trevor Horn, Fundamental is a confident affirmation of the PSBs' musical strengths. The result may be the very best album of their career, a mature and considered work which satisfies head, heart and feet simultaneously.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'I Made My Excuses And Left', 'Minimal', 'Psychological', 'Luna Park', 'The Sodom And Gomorrah Show'

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