Sunday, May 24, 2009

Who's Beautiful?

There are few surprises on the new Pet Shop Boys' Yes, but that's just as well. No one makes adult alienation and self-doubt more credible and touching, and no one does it with more immediate music. They know melancholy like it's their area code, but the songs are never simply sad or souring. For one thing, half of Yes could be pulled as singles, and on "Beautiful People" - first single I'd pull - Neil Tennant's acutely aware of the distance between himself and the beautiful people he wants to live like, and thinking about them is primarily a way of measuring what he isn't. But before the song's over you suspect he's telling the truth, and that he'd happily give up a life of grit for one more insulated from care. Then you think about how many hits the Pet Shop Boys have and you realize he's closer to the beautiful people than many of us are, which makes his alienation more complex.

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