Three years on from the splendid Fundamental, the Pet Shop Boys have ditched producer Trevor Horn in favour of Brian Higgins's Xenomania team, in what seems like a brazen grab for something a little more teen-pop-conscious.
But, while the results offer perfectly acceptable revisions of standard PSB tropes, one can't help thinking it's all a bit underwhelming. The Xenomania collaboration seems at best unnecessary: it's not as if they couldn't have knocked out a lolloping electro-stomper like "Pandemonium" on their own – or, for that matter, most of the tracks. The main difference is that these performances are both slicker and less memorable than one would expect, while the lyrics, with one or two exceptions, are forgettable rehearsals of romantic clichés barely tweaked into life by Neil Tennant's wry wit. The exceptions again focus on what's getting lost: "Vulnerable" finds him complaining, albeit mildly, about "surviving in the public eye", while "Legacy" betrays the kind of unease at modern life that simply won't register on technophiliac pop kids' radars. Hardly surprising, then, that when he starts unspooling fond childhood memories of Albion in "Building a Wall", Chris Lowe should offer the sarky interjection, "Who'd you think you are – Captain Britain?"
Pick of the album: 'Vulnerable', 'More Than a Dream', 'Pandemonium', 'Legacy'