Pet Shop Boys

Rhino/Warner, 2006

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


If I had to pick a CD that I thought would make this year’s Top Ten, this would not have been it. This, in a nutshell, is why we actually listen to the CDs.

I like the Pet Shop Boys, but I admit to never having thought of them as particularly album-oriented or particularly deep. For me, it’s dancing music, not thinking music -– though occasional tracks like “It’s A Sin” and “Opportunities” definitely show a satirical, skewering touch and a political awareness. Certainly, after listening to Fundamental, I’ve realized that this is all about my preconceptions. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Fundamental is both a great, listenable, danceable CD and a brilliant piece of societal commentary.

Produced by the ever-crisp Trevor Horn (Yes’ 90125, Seal’s Seal and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II, among too many other credits to count), Fundamental has a sharp, clear, and precise sound which complements the Boys’ sound perfectly. The keyboard-heavy sound sounds like an aural history of power pop, with riffs that range from Permanent Waves-era Rush to Frankie Goes To Hollywood -- but there are occasional moments where that sound is completely discarded, and the songs stand out more for that.

On Fundamental, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe channel the spirit of Oscar Wilde with biting wit and bitterness. The songs are the heart -- “The Sodom And Gomorrah Show” with a truly great spoken-word intro and a catchy, hook-laden chorus; the devastating “I Made My Excuses And Left,” and “Indefinite Leave To Remain” are all powerful and intrusive, wending their way into your subconscious. “Luna Park” is a dystrophic, dark, and damning picture of modern society -- perhaps of the United States? -- and “I’m With Stupid” is a funny and nasty portrait of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Three guesses who ‘Stupid’ is (hint: he’s from Texas).

The real gem, though, comes from an unlikely source. “Numb” is a punch-in-the-gut statement on pain and mourning and how sometimes enough is enough. It is a mourning song, a tear-wracked song -- and it’s also a Dianne Warren song. I’m not a big fan of Warren’s formulaic pop, usually recorded by the likes of Celine Dion, but “Numb” is shatteringly good and left me in tears the first time I heard it. Vocalist Neil Tennant, normally the soul of urbane irony, is suddenly naked, transparent and magnificent.

Fundamental is just that -- a great, fundamentally sound piece of power pop, dance music, and political and social criticism. Easily one of the best CDs of the year, it should not be missed.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino/Warner, and is used for informational purposes only.