‘A relevant comment on human emotion and current affairs’
Grace Almond
17:14 23rd January 2020

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Pet Shop Boys propelled themselves into 2020 with an updated, more modern sound, full of an eclectic mix of floor-fillers on their latest record Hotspot. It’s a nod to their earlier albums, and is distinctively Pet Shop Boys, but somehow it seeks to give their music a more contemporary feel.

Transcendent, extra-terrestrial sounds and a thumping beat on ‘Will-o-the-Wisp’ gives Hotspot a bold start. An emphatic set of lyrics, set against the duo’s signature backing vocals style leads the charge on this strong opener. A more subdued, slow build takes over on ‘You Are The One’. It’s a tender, vulnerable love song, full of inventive poetic lyrics and a shimmering melody. It’s one of the slower tracks on the album, and gives it an interesting break from the more upbeat sounds.

There’s political commentary on ‘Dreamland’, a pop song with a stunning feature from Years & Years. This track sees each band’s trademark sounds compliment each other, rather than collide, producing a powerful, vivid pop track. The anti-Brexit lyrics, “you don’t need a visa, you can come and go and still be here” should come as no surprise from Neil Tennant, a prominent Remainer. ‘Happy People’ shares themes with 90s electronic music, and Tennant’s dream-like vocals glimmer on this cut. It’s a fun, jumping track, with a bright atmosphere. 

The band continue to flirt with the sounds of the last decades of the 20th Century, giving us twirling, but slightly understated disco on ‘Monkey Business’, and a nostalgic 80s feel seeping through on ‘Hoping For A Miracle’, which also sees the extra-terrestrial themes of the first track make a reappearance. The record ends with guitar-heavy, reflective ‘Burning The Heather’ and ‘Wedding In Berlin’, an expressive, hazy, political club-banger, complete with wedding bells.

Pet Shop Boys are a clear example of why modern pop music is still fighting and pushing through. Almost 40 years in the industry has given them a unique perspective and understanding of music, and it shines through on Hotspot. They create music with expert flair and ever-present skill. Their songs are a relevant comment on human emotion, and current affairs, with a banging, happy sound.

Hotspot is released on 24 January 2020 via x2 Records.

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