Regrettably patchy album from one of pop's enduring and endearing duos. With Release...
Jacqueline Hodges 2002
It's no surprise that men comfortably in their 40's haven't created another hi-energy stomping dance-athon or mega-pop album. After a career spanning 18 years the Pet Shop Boys have decided to try something a bit different.
Out with the big production, dancey sounds and mid song theatrical melodrama of tracks like "Go West" and "New York City Boy", in with a more guitar based songwriting and melancholic, mature sound.
Release starts off quite solidly with recent single "Home and Dry" and the sing-along, lighter waving in the air, end-of-the night song "I'll Get Along" but then takes a terrible turn at "Birthday Boy". Strangely inspired by Michael Owen's birthday and Jesus, the track is a wishy-washy ballad with dodgy guitar solo (albeit from top former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr) and bleak and moody soundscape which borders on uncomfortable listening.
"Tell it like it is," Neil Tennant emplores on the next track "London". OK then, it's another gawd awful song. One of the joys of the Pet Shop Boys was their wit and ironic sense of humour but this is sadly missing on much of Release. What was once often fun and entertaining has been replaced with sober tales of woe and heartache, which is fine& if you want to be left feeling depressed!
There are a few breaths of fresh air on the album though - "The Samurai In Autumn" is a great track (primarily thanks to it's lack of many lyrics offers a break of Neil's voice for a little while) where the band venture briefly back into chilled, yet euphoric dance production. "The Night I Fell in Love", with it's tongue in cheek lyrics about a boy fan's one night stand with Eminem, also raises a brief smile but not enough to forget the remainder of the album's sins.
With an established career spanning so long, taking such a change of direction and become an ageing rock band is bound to be a gamble but this is one that failed to pay off. Bland and uninspiring - file it under, 'music your parents might like'.