Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Pet Shop Boys – Axis

Business mythological…


Jer Fairall: “I Feel Love” without Donna’s ice-melting touch, or maybe some early 90s club hit minus the big “3 A.M. Eternal”/”Rhythm is a Dancer”/”No Limit”-style chorus, this broody, thumping track sounds like it could have come from just about any era during the PSB’s existence except for maybe our sorry Guettized one. If the Boys themselves barely sound present here, their cool austerity still completely guides this in spirit. 

Anthony Easton: Fashionable, and interesting for how it has stripped away almost all vocals, which really was the purpose of the PSB existing. I am yet to be convinced that interesting means good. 

Iain Mew: Sounding like someone involved in the single somewhere is having fun is already a big improvement on the singles from the last album. The results are mostly just gently pleasing, but some of the fine details, the evolving sounds and the headphone-ready panning, are great. The brief bit of hard distortion towards the end reminding me of Capsule may not be placing the original source, but it’s a highlight regardless.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: On “Axis,” Mr Tennant and Lowe are happily nudging the listener in the ribs, reminding them that they watched electronic music blossom from humble beginnings, splinter off into subcategories and proceed to conquer the world. Does this give them the license to indulge every techno and electro whim they have? In a way, yes, because the way they inherit familiar tropes — buzz-saw synths, robot chants, head-nod percussion — and make them sound vital is a lot of fun and a very Pet Shop Boys thing to do. More an act of strategy than anything, but rarely does a planned status reminder come off as well as this song.

Brad Shoup: Into the fray, with a fidgety bassline and a giddy-dumb hook. A dancefloor comeback that bends time.

Scott Mildenhall: “My name is Christopher Sean, but everybody calls me Chris.” One of the best backward-looking, forward-moving dance tracks put out by a duo partial to eyecatching headwear in a long while. It sounds like the soundtrack to a film about a dystopian future where people have to race futuristic cars around futuristic CGI tracks for some reason or another: relentless — Very Relentless, even — foreboding, and most importantly, exciting. Pet Shop Boys have a liking for following up one album with a reaction to it, and if the reinvigoration of “Axis” is reflective of Electric than that should not only bear out once more, but with spectacular results.

Alfred Soto: Two consecutive dud albums – being boring is not what we expect of Tennant-Lowe. “Axis” returns us to love and dancing, a look backwards to a time when several strands of thump synergized. Want a strand of “Trans-Europe Express”? It’s in here. Rattling post-disco Patrick Cowley? Check. Basic Harold Faltermeyer keyboard pads? Yup. In other words, a true axis. Slip this between Lindstrøm and Disclosure and somebody might notice.   

Ian Mathers: I mean, this is fine for what it is (if not terribly distinctive), but why have Neil Tennant if you’re not going to use him?

Crystal Leww: I get that Pet Shop Boys are the ones who started it’s all, but it’s hard to get excited about “Axis” when it feels like artists like GRUM and Fred Falke have been taking this to a new level. Something interesting and new sounding finally happens around the three minute mark, but it’s too late to revive the track.

Edward Okulicz: Nothing since Very has been as propulsive as this; the shock of a PSB single without much in the way of Tennant on it is a relief because his lyrical wizardry has frayed a bit. But just because his schtick is stale, that doesn’t mean that there’s not plenty of other things he and Lowe can do. Think of this as a clearing of the drawing board; it’s a whizz through techno from Kraftwerk and Moroder to… whoever today is still drawing from them and having #1 hits, if you know what I mean. That’s a compliment — “Axis” sounds modern and sleek and has bigger hooks than anything off their last two albums with barely a word in it. It sounds like a fanfare portending the return of blood in the veins of two of pop’s true geniuses.

Sabina Tang: A heartening return to form after the last album, which was sleepy and a bit rubbish. (I like downtempo PSB, mind you, and was just as excited at the equivalent point in Elysium‘s promo cycle, so full judgment is deferred until July’s crop of disco lasers.) 

Reader average: [7] (5 votes)

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7 Responses to “Pet Shop Boys – Axis”

  1. Tennant also plays keyboards and does programming, so he is very much a part of this track.

  2. Thought about including that kind of caveat, but you know perfectly well what I mean, Alfred. This track still feels more pointless than anything from the last two albums.

  3. I was disappointed with some of the words, especially the fact that last two albums called boring – it’s not. Pet Shop Boys it’s not Kraftwerk – they don’t have to compose electronic monotonous music only; they may present and pretty lyrics.

  4. Just had to pipe in about the last 2 albums. While Elysium may be minus the “hooks” (it’s surely meant to be more reflective and subtle, as opposed to “hooky”), Yes is pretty much all hooks. It may sound a bit like a Xenomania album with Neil and Chris plugged in, but “lacking hooks” was surely not the issue. And it has “The way it used to be”, surely one of their best tracks ever.

  5. “Yes” has two more good tracks than “Elysium.”

  6. I am very fond of “Yes”! I think it’s one of their most listenable.

    “Elysium” had three good songs, and the rest were lacking more than “hooks” — they didn’t really feel like proper tunes.

  7. You can make a fine record by taking the best five tracks off the standard editions of Yes and Fundamental, then adding “Fugitive” and “This Used to Be the Future”.