"SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

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"SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#1 Post by nickname » Thu 24 Mar 2016, 5:29 pm

I know some people coul think there is another useless thread but the thing is it was a mess to find the reviews of some forum members here, I wanted to read again. So I want to make a compilation here and you can compare different points of views.
Drico One wrote:I was offered a chance to hear the new album last week. What follows is a descriptive track-by-track review of Super. Before I continue, this does not herald a leak and I do not have files to share. So, please don't request links or send me PMs – they won't be read. You can either respect that or bitterly resent me. I'd prefer the former, but I'll live with the latter. With that out of the way, feel free to read on if you have no issue with spoilers.


Super is an ultimately rewarding but initially perplexing listening experience.

The opening track, Happiness, becomes ever-more insistent on repeat listens, but only once you get over the initial shock of Neil's country and western vocals. This, I imagine, is what attending a barn dance on acid would sound like. It's all a bit gay rodeo to my ears, but becomes much more enjoyable once the surprise wears off. In the background, Neil spells out the title of the track a la Shopping and Minimal while Stuart Price ramps up the decibels, constantly repeating the same riff – one of the by-now familiar snippets - and adding his usual builds. As an album opener, it's a little incongruous, but soon becomes an unexpected earworm. Lyrically, it's slight, with only two substantial interjections.

"It's a long way to happiness, it's a long way to go, but I'm going to get there, boy, the only way I know," chimes Neil at the start, before rounding it all off with an admission that he, and his companion, may never actually arrive at their destination, which is quite a nice thought in its own way. It's all about the journey. Sonically, that journey seems to go round in circles with each circuitous route more demented than the last. I disliked Happiness intensely on first hearing, but it's won me over in the meantime.

The Pop Kids is wonderful and a worthy single. We've all heard it by now, so I won't attempt to describe it. As a trailer of the album, its slightly inelegant rhyming structure accurately previews a recurring, and slightly jarring, motif of Super.

If the lead single directly addresses their long-standing fans, the third track, Twenty-something, tries to speak to – or, at least, about – the new breed they've picked up in more recent years. It's a jaunty plodder, contrasting the optimism and expectation of youth with grim reality. Here we find Neil in wise old observer mode. Young Offender has grown up and must now find his way "in a decadent city at a time of greed". Lyrically, it's a bit suspect, maybe even a touch patronizing in places ("You've always been somewhat choosy but you'll love her for the length of a good movie"). The structure of the song is a little frustrating with the chorus more of a descending continuation of the verses than anything else. In the end, it's all a bit depressing, with Neil advising Twenty-something to "Take your smartphone and make your way home - on your own." Like Happiness, it grows with repetition and starts to bloom, but it's a moderate album track at best despite possessing plenty of personality.

Groovy lives up to its name, and is a disco-influenced late 1990s "goodtime" track that lifts proceedings again. It's an exhibitionist's anthem, with a narcissistic chorus that goes: "Look at me, I'm just so 'look at me', I'm just so 'look at me', I'm just so groovy." It's utterly inconsequential, but it's coherent in terms of the album, and comes with some nice riffs, bells, and the usual Stuart Price build before we go back into the catchy, infectious chorus. It's essentially about going out, showing off, and having a good time. Neil is either celebrating or satirizing depending on your point of view, so it's as multi-layered as you want it to be. Annoyingly, it also comes with some "crowd noise" and what appears to be a sample from The Most Incredible Thing right at the end. If they are feeling flippant and adventurous, I could see this as a single. It's only a bit of fluff, but it's fun fluff. Enjoyable.

Things start to become slightly bizarre now. The Dictator Decides features an epic, sometimes poignant, often menacing backing track, some magnificent haunting female vocals, and a depressed Neil recounting the misery of an aging despot. "Will someone please say the unsayable? Will someone please tell me I'm wrong?" he intones, willing a revolution to relieve him of his burden. Tortured shouts, a grim sense of foreboding, and a cloak of deep melancholia drench the elongated intro before our declining anti-hero begins his monologue. We soon learn that he's a compromised figure, keeping up appearances ("Of course I'm in league with the army, it's not like I've got any choice; They officially adore me and my father before me, but gunpoint has a firm voice").

In some ways, a song like this sums up the wonderful quirkiness of Pet Shop Boys – and you only get this kind of stuff with the sainted Neil – but while I'd be more than delighted with this as a bonus track, I'm perplexed by its placement slap bang in the middle of what purports to be a party record. Then again, at this point, I'm not sure if the album is purporting to be anything other than a random collection of tracks. Even so, this is a peculiar, almost weird, inclusion.

Pazzo! feels every bit as incongruous, a largely instrumental Mr. Oizo-style interlude that vaguely reminds me of Soft Cell's Monoculture with its concomitant spoken samples. Various voices tell us "That's insane", ask "Do you want to?", and state that "You're crazy". There's a Blue Monday bass sample buried in the background but it all feels a bit pointless to me.

Inner Sanctum changes the soundscape once more, building magisterially to a giddily enthusiastic all-too-brief climax that gets cut off before it can fully satisfy. Yet, in the context of Super, it begins the most exciting segment of the album, a four-track run that hints at their familiar genius.

Undertow is an obvious single, if a little Pet Shop Boys-by-numbers. The intro, familiar to us as a snippet, comes back later in this track to euphoric and thrilling effect. The verses are strong, tell a story of a helpless and dangerous infatuation, and recount the inevitable impending doom that seems certain to result. Lyrically, it's sharp ("Save me, I can't help that I'm sinking, Help me get away; but even as I speak these words, I know I'm going to stay"). The chorus is more than serviceable, but there's an irritatingly clunky bridge that seems, like much of this album, dissonant. It's a close relative of A Face Like That, and it throbs along at a cracking pace, its bombastic stabs and adrenaline-soaked beats reflecting the dangerous excitement of our protagonist's predicament.

Sad Robot World completely changes the pace and is a very beautiful, very stark electronic tone poem. Ironically, for an album that seems to make a virtue of its high energy stompage, the best track is its slowest. This is one long gorgeous sigh, a sympathetic love song to technology where Neil observes the "mechanical ballet" of automatons. By the end, he can't help but imagine sentience ("Machinery is sighing, I thought I heard one crying"). There is a glorious backing vocal-infused middle section, and a fabulous melodic flourish at the end where BRIAN from Confused.com suddenly discovers his soul and the pain of self-awareness. Spell-binding.

Say It To Me is a good airily percussive pop song, and a potential single that recalls early 90s D:Ream. A strident Neil vocal is accompanied by some breathlessly wistful backing vocals as he explains his dilemma ("My predicament is simply this: You're an enigma even when you kiss") and demands answers from his maddeningly ambivalent lover. It's all relatively simple, but builds into a frenetic cacophony as it progresses. A beautiful haunting synthline that vaguely recalls Schiller and Heppner's I Feel You emerges half-way through to underscore the pain of it all.

Musically, Burn could almost be a pastiche of what some people think a Pet Shop Boys record sounds like. A throbbing bassline ripped straight from Heart is quickly married to hugely bombastic synth stabs reminiscent of Obsession by Animotion. Stuart Price then adds his usual dissonance before Neil arrives to set the scene. Lyrically, it's utterly naff. With a chorus of "We're going to burn this disco down before the morning comes," delivered via falsetto, I suppose you wouldn't really want anything too profound as your good taste and inhibitions are razed to the ground. Unsettlingly, I'm really not sure if this is irredeemably terrible or actually quite good, but it has definitely improved with familiarity. There's a fake stop before the end, some breathy Neil vocals ("it feels so good"), a fishwives chorus, and an unspoken sense of dread that Bonnie Tyler is about to appear at any moment, held triumphantly aloft on a sea of shirtless, gyrating Chippendales.

Into Thin Air is the final track, an escapist song of elopement featuring a mournful, orchestral opening, a percussive backing track, and a slightly whiney vocal. It's tuneful in its own way, and builds nicely as it progresses, but is a rather colourless finish to a slightly bizarre listening experience.

There's a lot to enjoy in Super, but I have to admit to feeling pretty disappointed with it on first listen. However, it grows markedly on subsequent plays as familiarity breaks down the discordance of some of the rhyming structures and soundscapes. Like Bilingual, it seems half-hearted in following through on its initial concept and becomes something of a smorgasbord of Pet Shop Boys styles. It feels like a more patchy, less-coherent Electric. Don't give up on it, though, as its variety rewards perseverance. Songs that initially appeared slight suddenly seem to flower into life and embed themselves in your consciousness. It's lovely to listen to, full of interesting quirks, familiar motifs, and sonic thrills.

Drico.
minimal wrote:Now that I've listened to the record for quite a few times I'd say that Burn is the most instant song, Drico. I'd also suggest that Say it to me would arguably be the better choice for a second or a never released third single. Undertow is still great but seems a bit of a mess to me and except for the euphoric sound there is not much interesting going on I'm afraid. Pretty much PSB-by-numbers. Sad Robot World, Burn, or Say it to me are a bit more interesting, at least to my ears. Thank God we have that second half of Super. First half of the record is pretty much a catastrophe.


I'll post my impression of SUPER next week but I can already tell that although it happened to grew a lot on my it's still the weakest album of their career. If you listen to it a lot you'll get used to most of songs but it's the melancholic beauty of SAD ROBOT WORLD and the genius of THE DICTATOR DECIDES that is to remain remain. Oddly enough, these are the most typical PSB songs on SUPER but they also don't really fit on SUPER. ROBOT sounds like a song from the Fundamental era and DICTATOR could be part of the Introspective universe. All other songs on SUPER are mediocre although TWENTY SOMETHING has a nice beat, BURN appeals due to the longing in Neil's voice and VANISH resembles TWENTIETH CENTURY if it comes to its atmosphere and so on and so forth but still there's nothing of superior quality.

Oh, now that's already a short impression, isn't it? Besides, ROBOT is the only song I can emotionally relate to. Otherwise I don't really feel anything special while listening to the other tracks with little exception if it comes to DICTATOR and THIN AIR.

The first half is more fun and dancy but also a bit dull, the second half offers more content and structure.

OVERTOW, SAY IT TO ME, and BURN (!) are good pop songs. SAY IT and BURN are more immediate than OVERTOW IMHO as opposed to Drico's view. Still, the sample we already know from TOW is indeed quite euphoric as Drico has already told. SAY has quite a modern beat while the "We're gonna burn this disco down before the morning comes" part is quite irresistible. It's quite tempting and easy to fall in love with. Neils vocals on BURN are superb, there's so much longing in his voice. You wouldn't ever think that this is a track from two blokes in their late 50s.

m+
ype wrote:Yesterday, me and two friends got the chance to listen to Super once (and a few of the tracks we liked best twice).
Drico's review is very accurate I think, although I cannot yet say if the album will grow on me.
My overall impression: the sound is very EDM. I think there's a chance of the whole album dating quite quickly. I sort of miss the PSB's own signature sound. At times, the sound almost reminded me of Justin Bieber (!).
There's indeed a few songs that are quite baffling on first listen. But happily, there's also a few songs that sound like instant classics, Undertow being the most immediate of the latter category. Undertow sounds very Italo, and actually reminded me a lot of Boys by Sabrina, but in a good way. We sang along with it as soon as the second chorus set in!
The one song me and my friends liked even better is Say it to me. Neil said in the Attitude interview he doesn't think Years & Years sound like the PSB, but the PSB definitely sound like Years & Years on Say it to me. Again, in a good way.
Sad Robot World and especially Into thin air were the only songs of the lot that moved me emotionally. I like Into thin air a bit better that Drico I think. It's quite gorgeous and nice to have song with a bit more class, warmth and depth closing the album. It's also an escapistic song, in true PSB-tradition, which in itself is nice; "We'll vanish, noone will ever know where, into thin air" (iirc)
One final stray observation: Twenty-something reminded of us Ace of Base :-o It's a nice song, but maybe a bit too long.

I couldn't tell you much more about the album. I don't know how the "silly songs" will grow on me. I didn't like Bolshy and Bourgeois when I first heard them, and I've grown to love them (especially Bolshy), so I will reserve judgement on the likes of Happiness and Groovy until I've had the chance to give Super a few more spins.
I'm still very excited for the album to come out and to be able to explore it in depth!

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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#2 Post by drunk14 » Thu 24 Mar 2016, 5:55 pm

I think Drico's joint reviews topic has a special column for fan reviews, so "this is another useless topic" INDEED!
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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#4 Post by nickname » Thu 24 Mar 2016, 7:56 pm

drunk14 wrote:I think Drico's joint reviews topic has a special column for fan reviews, so "this is another useless topic" INDEED!
One of the reviews here came from another thread and you can read them on the first post.

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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#5 Post by gareth » Thu 24 Mar 2016, 8:03 pm

Undertaker wrote:ffs
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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#6 Post by ZiggyPSB » Thu 24 Mar 2016, 8:11 pm

Open up another review thread that's exclusively for numbered scores.
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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#7 Post by JSDOUVRES » Thu 24 Mar 2016, 8:12 pm

This constant spamming from nickname is getting really quite annoying. All it ends up doing is pushing interesting topics out of view while wasting everybodys time. Doesn't take much looking to realise that this topic belongs elsewhere.
Can the mods please do something about this. Or maybe nickname you should consider opening up your own forum, your posts alone would make it worthwhile!
I know you are a keen fan and are enthusiastic but you need to have control. I'm not saying To speak is a sin but For your own good please Give it a go....

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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#8 Post by Ghost within this house » Thu 24 Mar 2016, 10:24 pm

perhaps we could start a thread which brings together all the infuriated comments about Nickname gratuitously starting a new thread when he feels the itch... accompanied by the usual poll, of course.
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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#9 Post by MikeyC » Fri 25 Mar 2016, 12:05 am

Ghost within this house wrote:perhaps we could start a thread which brings together all the infuriated comments about Nickname gratuitously starting a new thread when he feels the itch... accompanied by the usual poll, of course.

When he feels the itch... A great PSB song title! 8)

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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#10 Post by leesmapman » Fri 25 Mar 2016, 12:07 am

Christ on a bike, another topic?

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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#11 Post by Drem » Tue 29 Mar 2016, 11:54 am

Sorry if there are any scandalous grammatic errors that I was unable to rub out - I'm too excited with an album.

"Undertow". Classic. Maybe later I will get used to its sound and become slightly tired of it. But as yet I love it completely. Right now it reminds me the best bits of "One more chance", by the way.

"Pazzo!" really lives up its name: it sounds like the nightmare of fan of 80s discotheques where he's finding himself being trapped in mental hospital's room and firmly tied to the bed, and some sadistic DJ in front of him teasing him with some intriguing synths and bits, asking him "Do you want to hear that tune? Do you want to dance to that tune? Nah, you won't get that, blockhead!". To my disappointment, best part of it - that part from initial snippet, - is actually the short last third of track. Because of that, "Pazzo!" sounds like (initially) short instrumental interlude (with a bit of Chris' keyboard clownery in it) that was stretched out at least by half. Also this track makes me thinking about the gas engine that refuses to start for a long time, then finally (1:44) it started and car rides at increasing speed but suddenly (2:23) an engine burns out and the ride is over. So the track accelerates very slowly and long but whole affair ends quickly and abruptly, like Chris was sedated at the end of writing it. I'm sad, I was expecting more crazyness :(. Hopefully some remixers will improve that missed opportunity expanding the better part of "Pazzo!".

"Burn" managed to trick me in a similar way to "Pazzo!" - from Drico's words and samples I was expecting a much quickier track running non-stop without these sentimental breaks. Unlike "Pazzo!", "Burn" still a decent track, we just desperately needed an extended version of it :D. I want to hear Johnny Marr's guitar on this live!

"Say it to me" a bit monotonous for me, in vein of "Before" - entire track is sounding like Chris is toying with the looped sample while Neil singing same question over and over again. I was expecting this song to develop as it advances, at least musically, but is there any development at all? It ends and you're thinking "where's its bridge and grand finale and etc???" Even refrains and verses are hardly distinguishable for me, at least now.

"The dictator decides" is a masterpiece. A miniature Octoberish synth-opera of granite & steel (with a bit of early Depeche Mode synths), and its final part is epic - that beatifully ominous Potemkin-esque instrumental with operatic female vocal. My only complaint: it's too short, it screams to be longer than 5 minutes! In "Front Row" it was called a sort of potential material for a musical and that's it - this is something that could be much greater than just album track, it should be expanded with live orchestra and more drama from back vocals. Get Sven Helbig to work on it, and it would easily overshadow both "Battleship Potemkin" and "The Most Incredible Thing".

"Groovy" is another album track that is criminally too short! I can't believe it's 3:30 because once it starts playing you're thinking "wow, it's really groovy and should last forever". And right then it stops!

"Sad robot world" is beautiful indeed but I needs to listen to in in a CD quality. It looks like it suffers from mp3 compression.

"Into thin air" is great, actually! I wasn't expecting that from snippets and other people's reviews.

"Twenty-something": I think it needs more time. But it's definitely not that horrible as we feared. As with "Happiness", it sounds fresh and that's good. Strangely enough, these synths remind me "Home and Dry".

My thoughts about the rest of album:
"Happiness"
"The Pop Kids"
"Inner sanctum"

My current score (on scale of 0...5):

3 Happiness
3 The Pop Kids
3 Twenty-something
4 Groovy
5 The dictator decides
3 Pazzo!
2 Inner sanctum
5 Undertow
4 Sad robot world
4 Say it to me
4 Burn
4 Into thin air

73% - a great album!
Last edited by Drem on Tue 29 Mar 2016, 5:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#12 Post by Lleonard Pler » Tue 29 Mar 2016, 4:54 pm

Happiness: 8/10
The Pop Kids: 9/10
Twenty-something: 6/10
Groovy: 8/10
The dictator decides: 6/10
Pazzo: 8/10
Inner sanctum: 9/10
Undertow: 8/10
Sad robot world: 5/10
Say it to me: 8/10
Burn: 10/10
Into thin air: 6/10

Overall a pretty solid album. Very cohesive. It would benefit of a treatment a là Electric: less tracks with extended length. I guess they didn't want to repeat themselves. Anyway, it's more relentless than Relentless.

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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#13 Post by Barn » Tue 29 Mar 2016, 5:18 pm

Happiness: 8/10
The Pop Kids: 4/10
Twenty-something: 3/10
Groovy: 3/10
The dictator decides: 6/10 ( The last 30 seconds 10/10. Why didn't Stuart build the track around this idea?)
Pazzo: 5/10
Inner sanctum:10/10
Undertow: 5/10
Sad robot world: 3/10
Say it to me: 2/10
Burn: 8/10
Into thin air: 3/10

Well.... Apart from the obvious gem that is Inner Sanctum,the rest are totally forgettable songs tbh.

I could dig into the archives and easily find 11 B sides that wipe the floor with this album.

Electric was 9/10 for me, this.... 4/10
Last edited by Barn on Tue 29 Mar 2016, 5:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#14 Post by Tenlow » Tue 29 Mar 2016, 5:21 pm

Snippets only say so much...

My initial rating of the snippets was like this:

1. Say It To Me
2. The Dictator Decides
3. The Pop Kids
4. Groovy
5. Inner Sanctum
6. Into Thin Air
7. Undertow
8. Twenty-Something
9. Burn
10. Happiness
11. Sad Robot World
12. Pazzo!


The final verdict is:

1. Burn
2. Say It To Me
3. The Pop Kids
4. The Dictator Decides
5. Inner Sanctum
6. Into Thin Air
7. Undertow
8. Twenty-Something
9. Sad Robot World
10. Groovy
11. Happiness
12. Pazzo!

--> Groovy and Burn. How wrong I was.
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Re: "SUPER" - album reviewed by forum members

#15 Post by Tenlow » Tue 29 Mar 2016, 5:23 pm

Barn wrote:Happiness: 8/10
The Pop Kids: 4/10
Say it to me: 2/10
Into thin air: 3/10


I could dig into the archives and easily find 11 B sides that wipe the floor with this album.

:shock: Funny, how we after all and in the end are fans of very same band :D
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