Elysium, the new album from Pet Shop Boys, maintains the British duo’s tradition of single-word album titles. A similar economic approach flows through this precise and neatly packaged 12-song collection. Conspiracy theorists may have fun with the album title. Is the band ready to take up metaphorical residence in the Elysian Fields and call it a day? Or are they already spiritually there — national treasures rewarded with a golden ticket to carry on making music for gods to groove to? Pragmatists will point out that LA’s Elysian Park is close to where the duo recorded the album with hip-hop producer Andrew Dawson.
The album opens and closes with death. “Leaving” sees Neil Tennant cleverly interweaving concepts of love and death, reflecting on the loss of his parents and how their memory and influence live on to create hope for love. Smooth synths and warm strings wrap themselves around an insistent, mellow tune. The final song, “Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin”, recalls the death of makeup artist Lynne Easton, turning vivid flashbacks from the late ’70s and early ’80s into an uplifting celebration.
Elsewhere, Tennant covers a range of issues and targets, from a wistful view of the aging process on “Invisible” to a sardonic swipe at the me-generation of modern pop stars on “Ego Music”. Musically, the record hops from lounge-pop (“Give It a Go”) to dance-pop (“A Face Like That”), lush orchestration (“Breathing Space”) to anthem (“Winner”). The suave, urbane vocals of Neil Tennant and inscrutability of keyboardist Chris Lowe are ever present. It’s Tennant’s words that ring truest, though. Watch the video for “Leaving” on YouTube, and a Funeral Plans ad appears. It sum ups what Tennant is saying throughout the record — what he both rails against and celebrates.
Essential Tracks: “Leaving”, “Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin”