Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

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Kiran
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Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#1 Post by Kiran »

Turned up Friday (from Amazon) but still in the wrapping. Unfortunately I've had the flu and I just can't shake it so have no appetite for music (or food). Probably going to have to go into the office on Tuesday so will rip it onto MP3 tomorrow so I can play it in the car (if I feel up to it).
Last edited by Kiran on Sun 26 Jan 2020, 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#2 Post by james23_uk »

I have a 12-hour plane flight in a few weeks' time and, rather strangely, I've decided to save the album for the journey.
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Roundhead General
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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#3 Post by Roundhead General »

james23_uk wrote:I have a 12-hour plane flight in a few weeks' time and, rather strangely, I've decided to save the album for the journey.
Wow, that’s some impressive willpower you have there especially after great critical reception it has had


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Dead In Marseilles
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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#4 Post by Dead In Marseilles »

I'm doing something slightly odd for Hotspot. I was ill too when the album arrived and couldn't face listening to it immediately... and then I had an interesting idea. There are some records in my collection that I got to know as instrumentals first, and then heard the versions with vocals later... and I thought I'd try that approach with Hotspot. I had ordered the two-disc edition, so purely as an experiment, I decided to familiarise myself with the second disc first, before listening to the vocal mixes on the first disc! It was more out of the fact that for once with a record I could choose to do it like this, and I liked the idea of it being different. Of course normally when you buy new music, you don't have that choice, as what you're sold (if it has vocals at all) usually has the vocals on already...!

I guess I could have done that eight and a bit years ago when Elysium came out with the instrumentals disc, but I didn't think of it and played the vocal mixes first. That meant that by the time I got around to listening to the instrumentals, I could still 'hear' the vocals over the top of them in my head. This time, I decided not to do that, so I'm coming at everything completely fresh with Hotspot.

So far, I've got familiar with the first five tracks as instrumentals, and still haven't listened to any vocal tracks (well, that's not quite true... of course I already knew Dreamland with vocals). I haven't heard the last part of the album at all (I listened to about 20 seconds of Burning The Heather on-line when the single came out, then decided to wait... so that one is going to be nearly all new to me too).

It's really interesting trying to guess which parts will have the the vocals over them...! And whether my perceptions of what the songs are like stylistically will alter when I hear the lyrics. So far, Will-O-The-Wisp sounds a bit like Axis, something of a dancefloor stomper to kick the album off, You Are The One sounds like it's going to be a wistful ballad or love song (though maybe the title is influencing my opinion there, and Neil's lyrics often provide a twist, so maybe it won't be), Happy People sounds a bit like a more chart-friendly Shouting In The Evening, Dreamland I already knew so I don't have much to add, although I will say that it sounds great as an instrumental too... and Hoping For A Miracle sounds really amazing and seems the most musically complex (the bridge, or what I assume is going to be the bridge, has a really gorgeous chord progression). I think that might be my favourite track at the moment... although that could all change when I hear the words later.

OK, so perhaps this is all a bit nuts... but then I have been buying Pet Shop Boys' albums on the day of release since Actually (I was outside Adrian's Records in Wickford, Essex, waiting for it to open that day)...so I thought I'd find a different way to give the new album a first listen for once...!

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#5 Post by Roundhead General »

Dead In Marseilles wrote:I'm doing something slightly odd for Hotspot. I was ill too when the album arrived and couldn't face listening to it immediately... and then I had an interesting idea. There are some records in my collection that I got to know as instrumentals first, and then heard the versions with vocals later... and I thought I'd try that approach with Hotspot. I had ordered the two-disc edition, so purely as an experiment, I decided to familiarise myself with the second disc first, before listening to the vocal mixes on the first disc! It was more out of the fact that for once with a record I could choose to do it like this, and I liked the idea of it being different. Of course normally when you buy new music, you don't have that choice, as what you're sold (if it has vocals at all) usually has the vocals on already...!

I guess I could have done that eight and a bit years ago when Elysium came out with the instrumentals disc, but I didn't think of it and played the vocal mixes first. That meant that by the time I got around to listening to the instrumentals, I could still 'hear' the vocals over the top of them in my head. This time, I decided not to do that, so I'm coming at everything completely fresh with Hotspot.

So far, I've got familiar with the first five tracks as instrumentals, and still haven't listened to any vocal tracks (well, that's not quite true... of course I already knew Dreamland with vocals). I haven't heard the last part of the album at all (I listened to about 20 seconds of Burning The Heather on-line when the single came out, then decided to wait... so that one is going to be nearly all new to me too).

It's really interesting trying to guess which parts will have the the vocals over them...! And whether my perceptions of what the songs are like stylistically will alter when I hear the lyrics. So far, Will-O-The-Wisp sounds a bit like Axis, something of a dancefloor stomper to kick the album off, You Are The One sounds like it's going to be a wistful ballad or love song (though maybe the title is influencing my opinion there, and Neil's lyrics often provide a twist, so maybe it won't be), Happy People sounds a bit like a more chart-friendly Shouting In The Evening, Dreamland I already knew so I don't have much to add, although I will say that it sounds great as an instrumental too... and Hoping For A Miracle sounds really amazing and seems the most musically complex (the bridge, or what I assume is going to be the bridge, has a really gorgeous chord progression). I think that might be my favourite track at the moment... although that could all change when I hear the words later.

OK, so perhaps this is all a bit nuts... but then I have been buying Pet Shop Boys' albums on the day of release since Actually (I was outside Adrian's Records in Wickford, Essex, waiting for it to open that day)...so I thought I'd find a different way to give the new album a first listen for once...!
I love this idea. Please let us know your thoughts when you do get to hear them with vocals.


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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#6 Post by Kiran »

Just listened to the album in full. I always need a few listens before coming to any conclusion, but I certainly prefer it to Electric and Super based on first play. The only track which I feel is particularly weak is "Wedding in Berlin", I think the album could certainly do without that!
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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#7 Post by ArtHist »

^^^ Agreed, 'Wedding' is an utter shocker of a track. Spoils an otherwise lovely collection of songs.

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#8 Post by Marie loves PSB »

Dead In Marseilles wrote:
Mon 27 Jan 2020, 11:41 am


OK, so perhaps this is all a bit nuts... but then I have been buying Pet Shop Boys' albums on the day of release since Actually (I was outside Adrian's Records in Wickford, Essex, waiting for it to open that day)...so I thought I'd find a different way to give the new album a first listen for once...!
Dead in Marseilles - No nothing "all a bits nuts" there. :D Listen to it how you want to lol... Hope that you are all feeling a lot better now. :) I know how you feel as I am long term ill. I have only been able to listen to the album once. I think I must have liked it as it stayed on lol... Not sure of "Wedding in Berlin" though. :shock:

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#9 Post by PSBPiggymummy »

Dead In Marseilles wrote:
Mon 27 Jan 2020, 11:41 am
I'm doing something slightly odd for Hotspot. I was ill too when the album arrived and couldn't face listening to it immediately... and then I had an interesting idea. There are some records in my collection that I got to know as instrumentals first, and then heard the versions with vocals later... and I thought I'd try that approach with Hotspot. I had ordered the two-disc edition, so purely as an experiment, I decided to familiarise myself with the second disc first, before listening to the vocal mixes on the first disc! It was more out of the fact that for once with a record I could choose to do it like this, and I liked the idea of it being different. Of course normally when you buy new music, you don't have that choice, as what you're sold (if it has vocals at all) usually has the vocals on already...!
What a fab idea - wish I'd thought of that now! As you say, I'll just hear the vocals in my head when I come to listen to the instrumental (and in my voice too :shock: ). Good thinking!

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#10 Post by Kiran »

PSBPiggymummy wrote:
Dead In Marseilles wrote:
Mon 27 Jan 2020, 11:41 am
I'm doing something slightly odd for Hotspot. I was ill too when the album arrived and couldn't face listening to it immediately... and then I had an interesting idea. There are some records in my collection that I got to know as instrumentals first, and then heard the versions with vocals later... and I thought I'd try that approach with Hotspot. I had ordered the two-disc edition, so purely as an experiment, I decided to familiarise myself with the second disc first, before listening to the vocal mixes on the first disc! It was more out of the fact that for once with a record I could choose to do it like this, and I liked the idea of it being different. Of course normally when you buy new music, you don't have that choice, as what you're sold (if it has vocals at all) usually has the vocals on already...!
What a fab idea - wish I'd thought of that now! As you say, I'll just hear the vocals in my head when I come to listen to the instrumental (and in my voice too :shock: ). Good thinking!
Wish I'd known there was a version with a 2nd instrumental disc! Maybe I'll buy it once cheap....
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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#11 Post by Dead In Marseilles »

OK, so as of today I still haven't 'cracked' and listened to the vocal versions of the tracks yet — although I've now familiarised myself with the complete album of instrumentals. And I will post my impressions of the tracks here before I do listen to the vocal versions. I don't have time to do that until next week, though. All I'll say for the moment is that I've noticed that 'Wedding In Berlin' is coming in for a lot of stick here... and yet, as an instrumental, I really like it (bear in mind I have no idea at this stage what vocals there are on the 'finished' track, nor which parts of the song they sit over).

As an instrumental alone, I think it sounds great, like one of the perhaps more 'Chris-heavy' tracks you find on Relentless. I'm a fan of such tracks, particularly 'The Man Who Has Everything' and, from later in their discography, Chris's long (and quite aurally relentless) mix of 'The Former Enfant Terrible'. I love the fact that the bassline, when it comes in, seems to be in a completely different key to what the mid-range sequenced parts up to that point have suggested... and yet it still works musically. And I quite like the repeated excerpting of part of the famous wedding melody before the track reverts to pounding electronica each time, too.

Could it be that when I finally listen with the vocals, I'll instantly want to consign the track to the dumper, like it seems so many here? I find it hard to believe that I could change my opinion so much just from hearing the vocals on top... but we'll see. Can the vocals be THAT bad?

Regarding the album generally, I think it will be really interesting to see what listening with the vocals does (if anything) to my initial opinions of the tracks. Which is one of the reasons I've done this...!

Suffice to say for the moment that I think it sounds like an excellent album, judging purely by the instrumental versions I've heard so far. I've been running to it in the mornings and it REALLY works for me like that...!

More from me next week...!

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#12 Post by Dead In Marseilles »

OK, so it took a lot longer than one week... but I'm back!

As I mentioned above, I purchased the Special Edition of Hotspot on its release, but as an experiment, I decided not to listen to the first disc (the one with the standard vocal mixes) until I was completely familiar with the instrumentals on Disc 2. As of today (March 8th), I still haven't listened to the standard version of Hotspot. I don't know what any of the lyrics are on the album (the lack of lyrics in the album booklet helped in this regard), or where the vocals appear on the tracks - all I know is the instrumental backing tracks. Apart, that is, from 'Dreamland', which I bought on release back in the Autumn and have played a lot (oh, and I listened to less than a minute of 'Burning The Heather' before Christmas, but decided to wait to hear the whole thing, and can't remember much about it now).

After six weeks of repeated listening to the second disc (but only that one!), here are my thoughts on the new album as a series of instrumentals. Generally speaking, I think it sounds really strong, up there with my favourites in the PSB oeuvre (for the record, Discos 1, 3 and 4, Introspective, Behaviour, Relentless, Fundamental, Yes, and maybe now Hotspot too). Perhaps strangely, my feelings right now are that listening to the vocal versions of the tracks may improve my feelings about some tracks ('Will-O-The-Wisp', 'You Are The One', 'Only The Dark' and 'Burning The Heather'), and worsen them in the case of others ('Happy People', 'Monkey Business', 'Wedding In Berlin' and possibly 'Hoping For A Miracle'). I *have* been listening to the recent B-sides, as I can't go by instrumentals of those even if I wanted to. I like what I hear ('Decide' and 'No Boundaries' are my favourites so far). This definitely seems to have been a fruitful songwriting period for them, but then I've always loved the Pet Shop Boys' B-sides, right back to the first of theirs that I ever heard, 'Paninaro' and 'Jack The Lad'.

Will-O-The-Wisp
A superb album opener, a real attention-grabber and full-on 'banger' in the tradition of 'Axis', which to my ears, it also sounds closely related to, musically and in terms of the overall sound of the production. It seems that unlike 'Axis', though, there's a story attached to this one in the lyrics, none of which I've heard yet of course. But I read a couple of interviews that mentioned that it's a love letter to Berlin or something. Certainly train sounds are audible in a couple of places, and the sounds of announcements like the ones you get on the German S- and U-Bahn in the city.

This is a great track to listen to loud when driving or running. REALLY loud. Exactly as 'Axis' was, in fact. I have a feeling I will like it even more when I hear the version with vocals. I am puzzled by the title, though. It suggests impermanence, ghostliness and insubstantiality, whereas the meaty track itself is anything but; but I doubt I'll be able to resolve this until I know what the words are.

You Are The One
Well, judging from the title alone and the lush sound, I'm guessing this is a romantic track, unless Neil is pulling one of his stunts and juxtaposing a desperate lyric against a beautiful backing track for artistic effect (see: 'To Face The Truth'). But I'm going to guess that this one is sincere. It somehow sounds that way. It's musically sweet and I reckon the lyrics will be the same.

Other musical points of note: I like the tuned clattery 'paint-can' percussion throughout this one (reminds me of 'What Have I Done To Deserve This'), and also the woozy detuned piano lines; two aspects I would probably have missed in the vocal version as I assume they're going to be at least partially covered by vocals there.

Happy People
A late 80s/90s-style stomper, complete with jangly Italo-disco piano line and 'clunk-heavy' bouncing bassline. Reminds me quite a lot of 'The Pop Kids' at the start, of 'Inside A Dream' in the bassline, and later on of Electronic's 'Disappointed' (now why could that be...?). And the bridge is pure mid-90s, and really sounds like Electronic again (only this time some of the tracks that didn't involve Neil and Chris, like 'Dark Angel' from the 1995 album Raise The Pressure — the bridge to that track reminds me of the bridge in this... or is it the other way around?). I seem to remember Chris really name-checked Nomad's '(I Wanna Give You) Devotion' back in the day, and I can hear something of that in here too, definitely in the 'clunky' synth bassline and maybe in the little treated vocal samples that garnish the later choruses. And like some kind of mega-mix of all of these tracks, it really grabs me.

And it ends with the same treated church bells (at least, that's what they sound like to me) that are used in 'Wedding In Berlin' at the album's end (albeit that they're pitched down further on the final track, presumably to fit better musically with that track?). Seems odd to end two of the tracks on the album with the same ambient effect, though, I must say.

Dreamland
I don't have too much to say about this one, because alone amongst the rest of the tracks on the album, I already knew the vocal version when the album came out. I think it's a great catchy single, though; it grabs your interest from the second it starts with its big synth/brass fanfare motif, and it's full of hooky little touches like the 'I don't wanna wake up' backing vocals that have featured heavily in some of the single remixes. Taking the vocals out for the instrumental version doesn't seem to diminish it much for me, but maybe that;'s because I already know where the vocals fit over the top and am subconsciously filling them in when I listen to the instrumental...?

Hoping For A Miracle
This has a lovely stately feel, and reminds me a little of introspective tracks like Kings Cross (introspective as adjective, not as album title!). But there's something of the feel of the instrumental backing track to 'Winner', too, with the crotchet-feel plucked chordal stabs. I've never seen what bugs people so much about 'Winner', I like it in all of its versions and remixes. This track is definitely moodier, though, and it's a funny mix of styles: it starts like a bad reggae band over a tape loop of gibberish conversation in a restaurant, we get some classic incomprehensible vocoder-speak, and then we're off into a quasi-baroque backing track with the wistfulness of something like 'Hold On'. The detuned string pads and piano give it all a slightly dream-like feel, before we reach the gorgeous bridge with a completely unexpected chord progression. Musically, this one really delivers as an instrumental, and I almost don't want to hear the vocal version — I fear an over-maudlin lyric could over-weight the track. We'll see...

I Don't Wanna
This track is fun, if a bit 'PSB-by-numbers', with the old Trans X 'Living On Video' feel; an 80s octave bass and wailing portamento lead synth. Listening closely to the instrumental reveals many nice touches that I would possibly have missed in the vocal version: more woozily detuned backing pads and 'ghost vocals' audible on quieter instrumental passages (I don't know if these are the final vocals we can hear, or earlier demo vocals that haven't been fully erased — I guess I'll find out soon). I can also hear a faint synth part playing a melody in the right channel on the verses - I don't know if this will turn out to be the vocal melody.

I gather this is going to be a single, the last from Hotspot — but I'm not sure of the wisdom of that move. With its über-80s feel, the track is exactly what the man in the street would expect from PSB. Like their over-use of the male voice 'YMCA-style' choir on some of their singles (see: 'Go West', 'A Red Letter Day', 'New York City Boy', 'Love Is A Bourgeois Construct', and the radio mix of 'Twenty-something'), this seems a bit obvious... delivering exactly what listeners expect of them. But perhaps the lyric will raise it above that when I finally hear it.

Monkey Business
This is super-redolent of late 70s and early 80s disco for me: a fat and very mobile bass line, string washes, analogue-sounding synth, electric piano and clavinet lines and cheesy brass. Kool And The Gang springs to mind. But the panning, bleeping, echoed synth main line definitely dates its inspiration for me to past the peak disco era, to the early 80s, like something Neil might have heard on a night out when he stopped over in New York to meet Bobby O, or a track New Order might have found themselves unexpectedly grooving to at the Paradise Garage. And this thought provides another link, because another track Monkey Business reminds me of is New Order's (fairly) recent 'Tutti Frutti', which created the same kind of greasy early 80s cheese-fest sensibility but somehow made it great nonetheless. 'Monkey Business' is another track I like just fine as an instrumental... and I can't help wondering whether I'm going to like it anything like as much once I hear the version with Neil on it! The end of the so-called instrumental does feature some backing vocals, and I'm not sure they add much...! I'm also reminded of the track 'The Former Enfant Terrible', which to my way of thinking was a brilliant electronic instrumental undermined by Neil's awful shouty choruses. The man's a genius lyricist... but even he can't get it right all of the time. Oh well, I'll see soon enough.

Only The Dark
My least favourite song on the Instrumental CD, I think this sounds like a really bad late 80s backing track, akin to instrumental music for a cheap straight-to-video film from 1988 (and I know what I mean - I was a teenager then, and saw lots of that kind of thing). The bridge sounds like the backing music to an 1980s daytime soap, or I can imagine it as alternative incidental music to Scott and Charlene's wedding scene from Neighbours in 1987. Perhaps this track will be 'rescued' by the lyrics for me. Or maybe I always simply won't like it.

Burning The Heather
An all-pervading autumnal, minor-key muted feel (maybe to reflect the title, suggesting clearing out the old to make way for the new). The guitar-heavy backing track makes me think of Release tracks like 'Love Is A Catastrophe' 'Birthday Boy' and 'The Night I Fell In Love'. Musically, this is a bit samey as an instrumental and goes on a bit too long for me without enough to quite keep me interested all the way through. Perhaps the lyrics will lift it and help to maintain interest over the full length of the track.

Wedding In Berlin
I love this — I'm fleetingly aware it's divided opinions amongst everyone on this forum, but as an instrumental, I think it's terrific. It's literally like a techno remix of the Mendelsohn wedding march, with the famous refrain chopped up and the brass fanfare used to propel the super-powerful bass and rhythm track forward. I don't know where the vocals will go (or what they might be that could usefully add anything much to this), and I don't care - as with, for example, tracks from Relentless like 'The Man Who Has Everything', they don't really seem needed here somehow, or are certainly optional as far as my enjoyment of the track is concerned. Perhaps this another track that could go down in my estimations when I finally hear the vocal version...?

As it is, I also love that the rhythmic and musical backing track at the start sets up an expectation of the key of the song which is totally wrong-footed when the bassline comes in. This is an old musical trick (Beethoven used it to great effect in the famous 5th Symphony), but it's still a goodie after all these years, and it works terrifically here. I love the sound of the track when it's at full tilt after the introduction — the staccato rhythm, the pulsing bassline, and the humming string machine electronically wheezing out the pad over the top.

The 'Mendelson Wedding March as full-on techno banger' concept also means that the punning title is absolutely perfect (as the Boys' titles so often are); it could almost refer to what would get played at Berghain for a couple getting married in the middle of the dancefloor. Wedding in Berlin... and also, of course, a reference to the Berlin suburb of Wedding. A classic PSB multiple-meaning track name. What's not to like? Well... possibly the vocal version!

I feel like I've held out long enough now, so following this post, I'm going to give the vocal disc its first spin. I'll report back...

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#13 Post by psbfannyc »

Great "experiment" and review Dead In Marseilles! Please let us know an update after you listen to Neil!

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#14 Post by Sage »

Yes, thanks for sharing, Dead In Marseilles!
I'm proud to be amongst fans that can articulate themselves so well.
I won't spoil anything about how the vocal tracks sound, but I'm curious for the final reactions and opinions.
We'll see how it aligns with the general consensus.

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Re: Anyone else not heard the new album yet?

#15 Post by telys »

I've only listened to the vocal disc a few times. Instead the instrumental disc is on. Happy people is a really strong track without lyrics and it sounds exactly like if it were on Electric. The synth solo on Burning t H doesn't feel out of place.
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