Pet Shop Boys

Nightlife

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Nightlife is a loose concept album -- more of a song cycle, really -- about nightlife (naturally), a collection of moods and themes, from love to loneliness. In that sense, it's not that different from most Pet Shop Boys albums, and, musically, the album is very much of a piece with Very and Bilingual, which is to say that it relies more on craft than on innovation. Depending on your point of view, this may not be such a bad thing, since Pet Shop Boys specialize in subtle craft and masterful understatement. Such skills serve them well when they're essentially following familiar musical territory, which they are on Nightlife. At its core, the record is very much like Very -- a clever, skillful updating of classic disco, highlighted by small contemporary dance flourishes, and infused with a true sense of wit, sophistication, and intelligence. Pet Shop Boys do this music better than anyone else ever has, and they're at the top of their form here, but it's hard to shake the initial impression that they've done this before. Each individual song works beautifully, from the wistfully dejected "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More" to the exhilarating Village People homage "New York City Boy," but as a whole, Nightlife seems less than the sum of its parts. Repeated listens reveal the songs' charms, yet Nightlife coasts on its craft a bit too much, which makes it feel like one of their second-tier albums.

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