Pet Shop Boys Hotspot X2
An artist hunkering down to make their ‘Berlin album’ suggests something serious and gloomy. Leave it to Pet Shop Boys to obliterate this notion entirely. Hotspot uses electronic music’s de facto capital as the backdrop to an unabashedly zany set of songs, not so much wearing the city’s influence on their sleeve as bedazzling it. It may well be their campest full-length to date, which – coming from the group who reimagined a Stephen Sondheim show tune for Liza Minnelli – is saying something.
Recorded at Berlin’s legendary Hansa studios, and reuniting with producer Stuart Price, the production throughout Hotspot is, unsurprisingly, immaculate. In marked contrast to their previous collaborations with Price, Hotspot pulls from a diverse pool of sounds: Happy people teases a vintage Italo intro only to plunge into a proper house stomper; the effortlessly catchy I don’t wanna is a hardy step into electroclash; Burning the heather is a downtempo ballad emphasising gentle guitar.
A lot of moments on this record shouldn’t work, and a few come perilously close to not working at all. Monkey business is fairly foul, only saved by the meme-worthy image of Tennant in the club demanding “margaritas, champagne, and red wine”. Dreamland borrows so heavily from the sonics of their 1987 masterwork Actually that you start wondering why guest vocalist Olly Alexander sounds so much like Dusty Springfield. And if you thought Wedding in Berlin wouldn’t be bold enough to include a pipe organ playing a wedding march, think again.
But for all the bizarre choices and sidesteps made on Hotspot, Pet Shop Boys live up to their own adage of never being boring. For a legacy act entering its fourth decade of existence, what more could you possibly want?