Unlucky for some, but not Pet Shop Boys: Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s 13th studio album, the appropriately named Super, was the second in a trilogy of works produced by Stuart Price for the UK’s most successful musical duo, and ended up perhaps the most highly regarded. This 12-track set received largely favourable notices from the critics, who were perhaps still blindsided by Pet Shop Boys’ determination to stay close to the strobes. “Shouldn’t they be slowing down by now?” was the undeniable subtext… Though, as ever, Tennant and Lowe were setting their own pace.
If Super was once described by vocalist Tennant as being like its predecessor, the Price-produced Electric, “but more so”, then it also proved to be unequivocally Pet Shop Boys, but more so!
Listen to ‘Super’ here.
The songs: A consolidation of everything great that has gone before
Happiness, the album’s opener, pairs darker dance beats with the duo’s signature lighter hooks. As Super was released in the spring of 2016, during the peak of the DJs-as-rock-titans era, there’s also something of a nod towards the accessible sound of the late Swedish superstar Avicii (Tim Bergling) on this track.
Despite keeping their focus fixed – as ever – on the future, Super’s most obvious moment, lead single The Pop Kids, seizes on a radio-friendly strand of Pet Shop Boys’ most familiar DNA, self-referencing riffs on a narrative that’s affixed to a synth-pop frame recognised by all. Both The Pop Kids, which topped the Billboard dance listings, and Super’s next single, Twenty-something, are worthy companions to material from Pet Shop Boys’ UK No.1 album, 1993’s seminal Very. Twentysomething also reunites the pair with their on-off Latin influences, which were at their most explicit across 1996’s Bilingual, and came with a strong video from American filmmaker Gavin Filipiak.