Hotspot - Forum Reactions.

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Effen Vida
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Hotspot - Forum Reactions.

#1 Post by Effen Vida »

Sorry for all the flip-flopping. Here's the review again in full.

People have an absolute right to behave like dicks, as is it is mine to ignore them.

Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot.

I’m going to hit ‘play’ and type as I listen. So please don’t expect a crafted review; I ain’t no Drico. What you will get from me, though, are a series of gut reactions and a sense of how each song feels to me.
I don’t know all the genre terms and the like, so you’ll have to bear with me. I am crap at describing music.

FYI – I first listened in the car on the way home from work and really disliked it. I don’t know if it was my mood, or autumnal expectations, but it all just fell flat.

I played it again in full when I got home and it was like listening to a different album.

This will be my seventh or eighth full listen.

Here goes.

1. Will-o-the-wisp

Low-rumbling swirly, rising synths at the start, immediately reminds me of Radiophonic, the beats kick in and it becomes something else entirely. Spunky electro refrain from’s a stomper. The titular ‘Will-o-the-wisp’ appears to be a turned-straight old flame of our Neil’s, whom he’s happy to bitterly stalk across the streets of Berlin.
I believe this is, indeed, Dark Techno. And it’s ace.

2. You are the one.

Sigh. This is just lovely, Neil’s still in Berlin and reminiscing about a lost love; ‘You are the one, I was the one”. He paints a collage of lost love “...a tingle tangle, chittering and chattering, by the fountains, spluttering and splattering”.
The warm washes of synth strings flow over you until an almost dissonant piano joins the party to underscore the second half.
The chorus later becomes “You are the one, I want the one”. At least I think it does.
Oh man, it’s so lovely.

3. Happy People.

It’s 1986! And then it’s the mid-90’s! It’s a multi-decade hybrid! It’s another stomper!
Near the start of the song a classic happy/sad Italo piano kicks in and it is GLORIOUS. “Happy people, living in a sad world” The verses are spoken word, Metamorphosis stylee and
Halfway in and the song f*cks off into the nearest club for a dance...Italo piano...multi-Neils sing/chant ‘People, happy people’...and, well, it just grows from there.
“No one comes from nowhere,
I leave and you arrive,
t’s the rhythm of our history,
it’s the beat behind our lives...”

4. Dreamland.
You all know this one. I didn’t like it too much. Now, as part of the album, I like it much more. Weird that, isn’t it?

5. Hoping for a miracle.
A sparse electro tick-tock gives way to, what I can only describe as, electro harpsichord/strings. Sort of. Lower-register Neil bemoans a celebrity life lacking in love and connections. A classic Chris Synth bubbles beneath washes of strings... drawing you in.
“Everyone loves you, everyone needs you, you’ve got what it takes
....hoping for a miracle, still hoping for a miracle..”
The break brings a lightly-vocoderised, lost and lonely Neil: “Hello, is anybody out there?”.

The very end of this song reminds me of The End of the World. You'll see.

** 8.12.19 Update **
I totally misunderstood this track. If anything, it means almost the exact opposite of what I said it did.
It's much more about a life wasted. The song's protagonist 'coulda been a contender'...after feeling they'd shown much early promise. Now, they're skint, lonely and unloved - something they believe success would bring.

It’s almost bed time and I need a sarnie, so I’ll leave it here and try to finish off tomorrow if you’d like me to.

And, in case I haven’t been clear, there’s not a duff track in sight; I am falling head over heels for this album.

Part Two.

The second half of the album is by far the most political.
If it had its own title it would probably be: ‘An ode to Europe / bollocks to Brexit’.

I’m joking.

On with the tracks.

6. I don’t wanna.
Gentle washes of textural synth are quickly destroyed by a thumping, insistent bassline, wailing electronica and Neil exclaiming “I don’t wanna go out! I don’t wanna go dancing!” and it excites the holy living brown stuff out of me. Whack! Have that.
And calms and a breathy, lower-register Neil takes over...
“Lonely boy, he has, his head in the clouds.
Sits at home, with no one around.
Feels so shy,
He’d rather sit alone,
And cry”
And it’s back to shouty Neil and the brilliant, wailing synths.
As the second verse hits, a new, bleep-bloop synth-line joins the fray. This happens a lot on Hotspot; just when you think you know the instrumentation/sonic texture, Chris sticks his foot out and sends you flying with something new. Sometimes wearing a jackboot, others in house slippers. I’m tired, that’s my analogy and I’m sticking with it. Either way, he never lets us down.

7. Monkey Business.
Brace yourselves, I imagine this song might be polarising. It’s one of the most bonkers songs they’ve ever committed to vinyl/CD/ones and zeroes.
And I think it’s proper ace.

I’m looking for monkey business!
Just playin’ around.
I’m looking for monkey business,
Look what I’ve found!

The is Uncle Neil and Auntie Chris getting down and dirty in a sleazy 70s disco, with bouncing beats, a meaty, thunderously funky bassline and some classic glitterball string stabs and trumpets, swimming in reverb. Now this is a groooove, baby.
Neil’s on top form here and he’s got his cheeky hat on.

Hanging from the rafters,
I’m a chimpanzee,
What I do for afters,
You’ll have to wait and see!

I guffawed at that the first time I heard that. Magic. Neil, I love you.

The song builds and builds, the music shifts and grows, the female backing becomes more ludicrous... and you kind of never want it to end. Which, unfortunately, it does...with that most criminal of endings: a fade. Nooooo! Why?!

It’s an absolute cracker and to give any more away would be to spoil it.

8. Only the dark.
Possibly the most wistful of all the songs on Hotspot. It reminds me a little of A Real Hero from the Drive soundtrack. It’s soft, twinkly and very 80s.

...although the dark is leaving its mark,
It’s not gonna last.
So let’s enjoy the dark, until it gets light,
It happens so fast.

Hotspot’s melodies are strong, particularly the chorus here – it surprises and delights, with its curved notes and dreamy vocals.

Don’t be scared,
For only the dark,
can show you the stars.


9. Burning the heather.
You’ve all heard this one. I think it might be Hotspot’s quiet masterpiece. I don’t what it is about this song, but it’s almost brought me to tears on more than one occasion. It’s just so impossibly melancholic, to me. Identity, ageing, loneliness and acceptance. And that chorus, it kills me every time. Adore.

Sorry, you don’t care! Haha. Had to say it, though.

New stuff:
The first verse brings this additional lyric:

You’ve got me all wrong
I’m not on your grapevine
When I came along
You were just, in my eyeline

I’m not one to stare
I’m not that committed,
But I’m always aware,
Of what isn’t permitted.

After the first chorus, we’re treated to a short West End girls/King’s Cross trumpet break.

Top qual.

10. Wedding in Berlin.

Or as I’d like to call it: Funeral in Berlin.

Oh boys, no. Just no. As I’m sure you know, this was written and recorded as a wedding gift for friends. A wonderful, unforgettable and special thing to receive, I’m certain.

But an album track this is not. Holy effing moly. The lyrics are sparse and, though sweet I guess?), they’re just awful.

A repetitive, shuffling, almost-tuneless beat is interrupted by...

“We’re getting married,
because we love each other,
we’re getting married today.

We’re getting married,
Because the time feels right,
We’re doing it without delay”

And then Mendelssohn’s Wedding March parps its way in.

I hated this on first listen. Now, it merely disappoints. A PSB song shouldn’t make you wince/cringe/hide under the duvet!!

Yes, it’s quite sweet and maybe, maybe, if you’re about to get married it might have some value, but as a closer to such a brilliant album? I think not.

It will probably leave you scratching your head, dumbfounded. Or I’m stupid and deaf and just too dumb to get the clever joke.

It’s that bad I’m tempted to share it with Skyhigh*.

*Topical joke.

** 8.12.19 Update**
I no longer skip Wedding in Berlin. It's not terrible, it's perfectly fine. As an instrumental it would actually be quite enjoyable, and there's bit of Chris brilliance near the end where the whole thing seems to stop, but then it winds back up and kicks back in.

That said, it still totally and unequivocally does not fit on this album. It's utterly incongruous.


To summarise: Hotspot is an absolute belter of an album. You guys are in for such a treat. Chris, who I probably haven’t mentioned enough, is at the absolute top of his game. This is peak Lowe.

I thought this was a one star album after my first listen.
How wrong I were.

Four and a half stars.

Had they ditched Wedding in Berlin, made My Heather be Burning track ten and An Open Mind track nine? Four and three quarter stars.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have and I'll do my best to answer.
Last edited by Effen Vida on Sun 08 Dec 2019, 10:44 pm, edited 13 times in total.

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#2 Post by Andie »

Thanks Effen :D I'm even more intrigued from your reviews. I like the sound of all the tracks, apart from Wedding in Berlin, although I'll reserve judgment on that one for now!
Don’t be scared, for only the dark can show you the stars

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#3 Post by drunk14 »

I am intrigued by Wedding in Berlin, because you didn't really explain this track much. Is it kind of ambient or what? According to iTunes, it's one of the longest tracks on the album so I am curious how they managed to fill the space between 00:00 and 04:39.

Good to read that Hotspot has plenty of catchy melodies ;)
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Mark R.Y.
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#4 Post by Mark R.Y. »

Thank you, Effen. This has really whetted my appetite for the album release next month. I'm very amused by the rafters/afters rhyme. :D
Last edited by Mark R.Y. on Sat 07 Dec 2019, 4:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#5 Post by jules »

Thanks again for this highly anticipated review of the album. Now the wait will be even more difficult indeed 😭

How did you go from one star in the car to nearly 5 stars ?
Did it take a lot of listen, or was it much better on the second one ?

The sound is dirty and very 80's or 90's, but overall does it still sound modern (as Super) ?

What you said about Wedding in Berlin looks like David Lynch's work. You scratch your head trying to understand his movies and he made some paintings as described.

By the way, what movie did you see and was it worth it ? 😄
Last edited by jules on Sat 07 Dec 2019, 4:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#6 Post by glennjridge »

I like what I've read!

personally I am surprised they put "wedding in berlin" on given its back story. I would think if it was given as a present, it would cheapen the gift somehow if you just deleted the real people from the song and made it generic.

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#7 Post by NotInvisible »

Thanks for the review. I don't think I've been this excited for an album since Bilingual (which unfortunately fell flat for me after Very/Relentless).

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#8 Post by Nicholas »

Thanks again for these observations. Has any of it ended up making its way into your series?

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#9 Post by romy »

@Effen Vida,
thanks again,all sounds really fine,again I will ask you some questions,if this is ok.

1. Is there a typical PSB Hymn on the album?Like,for example,Go West,Construct,Red letter day etc.?

2.Which song sounds most like PSB?Dreamland doesn't sounds like PSB,in my opinion.

3.Are there tracks,you could dance in a club,like "Vocal"?

4If I understand you correct,all songs are good,only "Wedding in Berlin" seems to be rubbish? Does it mean,we have a 9/10 rated album?

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#10 Post by Parkol »

Thank you. Which songs are the worst on the album?

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#11 Post by Young Offender »

Hi Effen and thanks for your review a couple of questions:

a. Was your copy an actual release copy with all the artwork or a promo advance copy no artwork?

b. Will you be using any of the songs on your upcoming film?


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#12 Post by Dog »

Thanks for the write up Effen. A couple from me:

Neil has talked about the album having a distinct Hansa sound. This isn’t evident in Dreamland or Heather... Do you recognise it in the other tracks, and if so how would you describe it? Is it a new sound for them?

Dreamland and Heather are obviously very different tracks. It seems other tracks on the album are very different again too. Does it therefore still hang together as a cohesive whole? What kind of album have they actually made? Does it still sound like a part of the Price trilogy?

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#13 Post by daveid »

Thanks very much for the review. I'm excited, although to know that the last track is a heap of shit is a real bummer. Hopefully they'll read your review and replace it with something less offensive like Postscript II (I believe in excrement)

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#14 Post by goughsjd »

Cheers for that Effen, can't wait for the album and your comments have boosted that even more.,!!
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    #15 Post by Palpatine »

    Thanks for the review, EV.

    Have you heard Decide? If so, would it have worked on Hotspot?

    What song has the best, most amazing middle-eight?

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