Besides being mostly midtempo and mostly mid-temperature, Pet Shop Boys' 11th studio album is an oddly structured effort, giving up its theme during track number four, a seemingly throwaway, two-and-a-half-minute ditty called "Your Early Stuff." They may be dashing, tasteful pop craftsmen to their fans, but Elysium's prime number finds them pre-gig and stuck with a cabbie who sees this duo as A Flock of Seagulls-styled nostalgic fluff, where haircuts and videos are discussed before anyone remembers the song was called "West End Girls." Good news, because PSB's catty moments are some of their most delicious, and while the fine "Ego Music" ("In the sea of negativity/I'm the Statue of Liberty/That's why people love me/It's humbling") balances bliss and spite with the grace of their 1991 single "How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?," feeling prickly is out of fashion when the Olympics come to town, and this is the Pet Shop Boys album with their Olympic single "Winner." Low-key and still triumphant, the cut feels like fists in the air while wearing tasteful trench coats, and without the usual panache, this misty victory is still an acquired taste. The hooky "A Face Like That," on the other hand, is winning crossover, paying extra dividends to fan club members who will see it as a sped-up "Love Comes Quickly," and with ironic swan song "Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin" soaring with classical arrangements, Derek Jarman references, and memories of "the clichés, the candles, the mess," the album's awkward juggling of self-doubt and spectacle is on point for a moment, suggesting return visits to Elysium will provide answers and insight, Behaviour-style. Maybe that motorcycle heard at the end of the album is speeding toward a new tomorrow, or maybe it's headed toward the Olympic closing ceremonies for Pet Shop Boys to perform "West End Girls" when they'd prefer to do "Winner." Either way, Elysium is an interesting, sour, and insider-aimed dispatch from backstage, interrupted by some big moments that sound entirely commissioned.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries