Pet Shop Boys

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Hotspot Review

by Timothy Monger

Pet Shop Boys resume their exceptional late-period run with Hotspot, their third in a series of high quality collaborations with producer/engineer Stuart Price. Recorded at Berlin's legendary Hansa Studios, the acclaimed duo's 14th album finds them firmly in their element, delivering crisp electro-pop invocations, wry dance bangers, and melodic gems both sunny and stormy. Still more or less in the self-described "electronic purist" mode of 2013's Electric and 2016's Super, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe make a few allowances here, particularly on the melancholic standout, "Burning the Heather," which features some crafty psych-inspired guitar work from Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. Opening volley "Will-O-the-Wisp" is all hard synth bite and rippling tension, possessing a specific kind of dark energy that few acts can summon so well, let alone after nearly four decades together. Its intensity is offset by brighter dance cuts like the wry "Monkey Business" and the buoyant "Happy People" with its infectious chorus threaded with Tennant's distinctive spoken-word rhymes. Lightly cloaked political stabs pop up here and there like on "Dreamland," a collaboration with Years and Years' Olly Alexander, that imagines a borderless world free of Brexit fears and immigration policies. The clever melodic shifts that are one of Pet Shop Boys' hallmarks remain in evidence across Hotspot, giving songs like the tender "Only the Dark" a dreamy sense of uplift. Through it all, Tennant and Lowe feel as confident and progressive as ever, honoring their signature sound while continuing to push it into the future.

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