Wednesday, March 25, 2009

too much of everything is never enough

I'd started a review of the Pet Shop Boys new album, Yes, yesterday in which I had written that it seemed like the duo were making an homage to the Pet Shop Boys back catalogue. Various songs from Yes sound like the pair at various stages during their career - Vulnerable sounds like it has been lifted from Actually, Pandemonium from Very and King of Rome sounds like the introduction to Behaviour's Being Boring.

Overall, I said, it had just made me want to listen to their last album (2006's Fundamental) which provided that the Pet Shop Boys could still make superb, progressive, celever pop of the highest order.

Two listens later, and I have changed my opinion a bit. I don't think Yes moves the Pet Shop Boys forward in any way and it isn't as clever, nuanced or textured as Fundamental but what it does continue to prove is that there are very few acts in the UK today who can produce such polished, consistent pop music of this sort of quality.

Yes is the Pet Shop Boys at their most simplistic - electronic pop music with clever lyrics, catchy melodies and Tennant's trademark voice. It's poppier than recent efforts - the production input of long-time Girls Aloud collaborators Xenomania sees to that - but after several listens what initially seems like average pop fodder becomes likeable, deep pop music at its finest. From the football-crowd chorus of top twenty single Love Etc to the slow-paced snapshot of 21st century living Legacy the record ebbs and flows in a way only a Pet Shop Boys album can.

It's not their best work and neither will it convert any new fans, but even in 2009 an average Pet Shop Boys record stands head and shoulders above the morass of hopeless pop on show.

Monday, March 09, 2009

blame the broken social scene

Buying an album on the strength of hearing one song in the background on the radio is always a bit of a gamble, but with Fine Fascination, the debut from London five-piece The Red Light Company it certainly paid off.

From the introduction to the opening track Words of Spectacular this record grabs your attention and doesn't let go. It is one of those albums that manages to be both instantly likeable and that improves with several listens and I am really pleased with it. There are a couple of tracks here which I was vaguely aware of already - the sort of thing that must have been used on the BBC or that I have heard in a shop or similar without actually knowing what it was. This is particularly true of 2008 single Scheme Eugene and new release Arts and Crafts has also had some Radio 1 airplay.

Whilst their sound is familiar it's difficult to pigeonhole the Red Light Company. Vocalist Richard Frenneaux sounds reminiscent of Turin Brakes frontman Olly Knights but with influences including Radiohead and Elbow it's where the similarity ends. Their music is punchy, catchy and interesting but also richer than the normal guitar based indie fare we hear so much of.

I really like it, actually. I worry that they'll go the same way as other brilliant, one album wonders (Haven, Royworld, Morning Runner to name but three) and I am regretful I'll miss their Nottingham live show, but it's certainly well worth a punt at the princely sum of £6. A very promising debut.