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October 2nd, 2013 ROBERT HAM | Music Stories
 

Primer: Pet Shop Boys

music_petshopboys_3948IMAGE: John Wright

Formed: 1981 in London.

Sounds like: That stinging kick of reality that creeps in as you’re trying to lose yourself on the dance floor.

For fans of: Erasure, Goldfrapp, Kylie Minogue.

Latest release: Electric, a bold return to club-ready form recorded with house producer Stuart Price, features everything from a Springsteen cover to a song informed by 17th-century composer Henry Purcell.

Why you care: In their native U.K., Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are icons, and each Pet Shop Boys album is guaranteed to reach the top 10. In the U.S., the synth-pop duo peaked early. Their 1984 debut single, “West End Girls,” rocketed to No. 1, with a handful of chart successes keeping the band a fixture on MTV for the next five years. It’s not hard to see why American music fans gave up on the Boys. The group’s albums, starting with 1990’s Behaviour, found Tennant’s lyrics exploring complicated relationships and ruminations on world politics. Even with hummable hooks, they can be bitter pills to swallow. There’s no denying the quality of Pet Shop Boys’ overall work, though. For a pop outfit that’s been going for 30-plus years, it is astonishingly consistent. Apart from last year’s plodding, contractually obligated Elysium, the group’s discography manages to reflect ever-evolving dance-music culture while maintaining a sense of timelessness that only true students of pop can create. The Boys are obviously still capable of striking a nerve: Their current tour—including a first-ever Portland show—is packing concert halls throughout the U.S.


SEE IT: Pet Shop Boys play Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, on Friday, Oct. 4. 7:30 pm. $42.50-$107. All ages.

 
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