Saturday, August 19, 2017

Super (2016)

It's been all product from the Pet Shop Boys for some time now, delivered with a certain regularity and antecedents that are familiar and obvious, not to say comforting (though they are). The dance grooves, the disco conflagrations, are lush and steady if not quite fresh. The songwriting draws on old wells. "Twenty-something," for example, spends its minutes remembering earlier lives as "Young Offender" and other Dorian Grays between I don't have the energy to recollect. The best song here is "The Pop Kids," a nostalgia exercise but with a buzzing edge. It went to #1 on the US Dance Club chart, which is good enough for me and my Bobby McGee. The song hits certain exuberant high notes of pop fealty just vague enough to project anything onto: "They called us the pop kids / 'Cos we loved the pop hits ... Telling everyone we knew / That rock was overrated ... We stayed out 'til late / Five nights a week / And felt so chic." Well, who can't relate to that? And yet, in spite of my better instincts, I dwelt more repetitiously and obsessively on the insane bouncy-ball dynamic of "Groovy," which term they drolly use as a noun ("you're such a ..."). This wasn't exactly the usual infatuation for a beloved new tune on my part but rather something nagging me about it. It worries me and makes me nervous, like when you regret you wanted to watch the horror movie now starting. First a grand joke, and then you end up wondering if you are the butt. The dumbing down feels ferocious and caustic, like some kind of putdown I can't begin to understand. Why? At this point, to be clear, with Behavior and Very and Actually and "Left to My Own Devices" locked in the catalog for decades, the work of the Pet Shop boys is arguably done and they are welcome to feast on the scraps of recalled leftovers and I'm happy to join them. "Groovy" has certain affinities with other B-sides that've come along ("The Sound of the Atom Splitting," say)—and, oh but of course, with "Young Offender" and "Twenty-something" thematically. It also features live audience sound effects, so maybe "Groovy" is their final word on "rock was overrated." Except, I can guarantee you, based on all the reworking of their songs for quite some time now, I'm sure it won't actually be their final word. If pressed, I'm still calling that good news.

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