The COVID-19 pandemic might have scuppered the lengthy hits tour designed to support the release of Pet Shop Boys’ 14th studio album, released on 24 January 2020, but, across its tight ten tracks, Hotspot presents something of a greatest-hits travelogue. In essence, this is the record that draws together everything Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe had finessed creatively until this point. Largely recorded at Hansa Studios, in Berlin, as the third in a trilogy of albums recorded with producer Stuart Price, Hotspot repurposes something from every era of the band’s lengthy and successful reign.
Listen to ‘Hotspot’ here.
A flair for evocative imagery and political observation
Album opener Will-O-The-Wisp is the sort of club banger Price had already perfected across 2013’s Electric and 2016’s Super, but it’s followed by You Are The One, which offers a melodic echo of 1990’s Behaviour, while the very next track, the Euro-house spectacular Happy People, might easily have appeared on the effervescent Very, from almost three decades earlier.
The contemporary pop of Dreamland, a collaboration with Years & Years, works nicely and had been issued as Hotspot’s lead single the previous October. Written with Olly Alexander a couple of years earlier, it nicely blends the atmospheric flair Neil Tennant has for evocative imagery (its principal inspiration was the Margate fairground) and an entirely characteristic and cutting political observation (Trump’s America and Brexit Britain).