Is there a crumbling grotesque portrait of the Mael brothers somewhere in an attic? Seems there is some serious Dorian Gray shit going on with the veteran duo. They’ve been creating their erudite, perverse pop since the early 70s, and time shall not wither, nor dilute, them, nor their endless flow of ideas. Long before PSB (Pet Shop Boys and Public Service Broadcasting alike) made music, they were confounding and delighting the mainstream with androgynous operatic vocals (Russell) and a keyboard oddball glower (Ron) and were forever hard to pin down sonically.
So it is with …Drip, Drip, Drip, their 24th album, as they teeter between Puckish playfulness and everyday anxiety, a perfect summation of where we are currently in our global crisis. Tech obsession is cheekily addressed in i Phone where trouble in paradise stems from a lack of communication, as Adam and Eve bicker over said device and its impact on their relationship. All That is seemingly a 21st century riposte to the psychedelic era that birthed them, whereas I’m Toast is as straightforward a guitar anthem as they can produce… Which is to say, complex and eccentric.
Russell’s voice is still a glorious instrument, as pure, elastic and beautiful as ever, notably on dazzling form on Onamato Pia (geddit?) and the ode to modern narcissism through virtue signalling, Self Effacing. Only Lawnmower feels inessential, if still very funny. It’s a paean to conspicuous consumption in middle-age which falls just short of self-parody.
Above all, they can still surprise with musical left-turns. Pacific Standard Time is beautiful, a kind of baroque electronica; while Please Don’t Fuck Up My World is the stinging riposte to certain world leaders, a kick in the groin to talent show tropes… it’s hilarious, sweet, and ridiculously poignant all at once. When the angelic choir come in for the profanity strewn chorus, it’s like someone spiked Simon Cowell’s water with mescaline. Sparks are enough to make you want to cheer. Fucking genius.