album reviews

Pet Shop Boys
Rhino (2006)

After 25 years together, Pet Shop Boys Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant have long since outgrown the "boy" in their name, but their synth-pop music hasn't exactly matured past the sound of its 1980s heyday. Though their dancey beats and lush keyboards seem a bit frozen in time, the duo has modernized its sound with a more current lyrical stance: "I'm With Stupid," the lead single on their latest release, "Fundamental," offers a swipe at President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair that is buried just beneath the song's crystalline sheen.

That glossy exterior is the key to toning down any potential confrontation in the Boys' political views: The mellow "Indefinite Leave to Remain" rails against Britain's immigration system but could just as easily be a love ballad with Tennant's tender croon. "Integral" addresses the plans for a British national identity card with techno-styled electronics and beat.

Unfortunately, "Fundamental" falters when the Boys step off their political platform. The Diane Warren-penned "Numb" is too sluggish and subdued, while the breakup narrative "I Made My Excuses and Left" seems almost juvenile in its straightforwardness, especially compared with "Fundamental's" more cerebral material.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 13 October 2006, Page WE06
.: Fundamental on