Pet Shop Boys – Nonetheless

A triumphant synthesis of past and present

Pet Shop Boys - Nonetheless

Album facts

Release Date: April 26th, 2024
Label: Parlophone
Tags: , ,
Discogs: Pet Shop Boys – Nonetheless
Partially sounds like: De/Vision, Erasure, Soft Cell
Final score: 4 stars
Matching album cliches: 1 / 7

With their 15th stu­dio album "Nonetheless", pro­duced by James Ford, known for his work with Depeche Mode ("Spirit" and "Memento Mori"), the Pet Shop Boys prove once again that they are mas­ters of their craft. The unmis­tak­able sound that has defined the band since the early 80s can also be found in this latest work. The album invites you on a pro­found jour­ney through the best of synth pop and elec­tro pop, enriched with a fresh, mod­ern aesthetic.

Soulful introduction and timeless homage

"Loneliness" opens the new album with a drum­beat of epic, mel­an­chol­ic strings that imme­di­ately pen­et­rate the depths of the soul. A mas­ter­fully chosen intro that seam­lessly ties in with the proven sound DNA of the "Pet Shop Boys" and brings romantic 80s vibes to life. The song skil­fully bal­ances on the fine line between nos­tal­gia and fresh mel­an­choly, an emo­tion­al roller­coast­er that forces the listen­er to smile and pause in equal meas­ure. "Loneliness" is a cap­tiv­at­ing pre­lude that raises expect­a­tions and touches the heart at the same time. A worthy begin­ning that makes you want more.

"Feel" takes the listen­er on a gentle jour­ney through the realm of emo­tions, led by strings and piano in the style of the Pet Shop Boys. The lyr­ic­al depth of the song is reflec­ted in lines such as "You make me feel like nobody else can. You make me feel like nobody else's man". The subtle integ­ra­tion of "Zip and Zap synth sounds" gives the song a nos­tal­gic 80s fla­vour des­pite its mod­ern feel, which I really like. This track is a suc­cess­ful homage to the clas­sics of the genre and offers a time­less qual­ity that fans of elec­tron­ic music will undoubtedly appreciate.

The ghost of a man
who’s lost in a rapture
I’m count­ing the days
till you get away
Lyrics of "Feel" by "Pet Shop Boys"

Surprising rhythms and a unique identity

Why do I dance when trum­pets sound? Normally that wouldn't be my cup of tea, but "Why Am I Dancing?" man­ages to over­come my scep­ti­cism. The trum­pets come in here with a hymn-like start and fit in sur­pris­ingly well with the faster tempo and the subtly mel­an­chol­ic atmo­sphere. The strings are also present again and con­trib­ute to the depth of the track. I par­tic­u­larly like the synth sounds; they remind me slightly of the liais­on with Soft Cell and their joint hit "Purple Zone".

Who doesn't think of the uber-hit "New York City Boy" when read­ing the song title "New London Boy"? However, it quickly becomes clear that the song takes a com­pletely unique and fas­cin­at­ing path. The track impresses with a relaxed groove and a deep bass line that per­fectly emphas­ises the theme of sexu­al iden­tity. Particularly impress­ive is the styl­ist­ic break in the bridge, which is remin­is­cent of the icon­ic "West End Girls". Despite the min­im­al­ist approach, the song achieves a pro­found emo­tion­al impact. A sen­ti­ment­al song that skil­fully breaks away from expect­a­tions and reaches deep into the soul.

Nostalgia and reinvention

When listen­ing to "Dancing Star", I inev­it­ably felt trans­por­ted back to the era of the Pet Shop Boys, the track is par­tic­u­larly remin­is­cent of the vibrat­ing rhythm of "Domino Dancing". The music video emphas­ises this retro charm with allu­sions visu­ally aimed at the 80s hit. Lyrically, how­ever, the song takes us into a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world, ded­ic­ated to the legendary bal­let dan­cer "Rudolf Nureyev". The mood of the song oscil­lates between cheer­ful­ness and a pro­found mel­an­choly – a fas­cin­at­ing mix­ture that redefines nos­tal­gia and at the same time offers an emo­tion­al roller­coast­er ride.

In the 60s you could feel the freedom
and the bright­est star in town was you
Always a scan­dal and a real heart-breaker
Boys and girls both threw them­selves at you
Lyrics of "Dancing Star" by "Pet Shop Boys"

"A New Bohemia" fas­cin­ates with its min­im­al­ist use of piano, which inter­weaves with strings and retro drums from the 60s to cre­ate a har­mo­ni­ous whole. Although quite suc­cess­ful, I would have wished for a stronger elec­tron­ic influ­ence in order to fully util­ise its poten­tial. For me per­son­ally, this is the weak­est track on the album "Nonetheless".

Unexpected twists and tropical sounds

Pet Shop Boys (Promo photo by Alasdair McLellan)
Pet Shop Boys (Promo photo by Alasdair McLellan)

As someone tra­di­tion­ally rooted in elec­tron­ic synth pop and elec­tro pop music, I could barely hide my scep­ti­cism when I first heard "The Schlager Hit Parade". The ini­tial acous­tic gui­tar that soun­ded in the intro raised my fears of an ode to German Schlager music – a genre that is usu­ally for­eign to me. Surprisingly, how­ever, the track devel­ops into a sol­id Pet Shop Boys piece that is pleas­antly out of the ordin­ary, even if it ends up in the middle of my rat­ing. The lyr­ics, espe­cially the line "in hazel, black and brown", skil­fully allude to clas­sic German hits, in this case a song by "Heino", without drift­ing into kitsch. However, the Christmas bells in the bridge spoil the over­all pic­ture some­what. All in all, an inter­est­ing attempt that shows that even unex­pec­ted influ­ences can lead to an enter­tain­ing result.

In ‘The Secret of Happiness’, the band once again tries their hand at a song that brings Hawaii back home with its hol­i­day atmo­sphere. However, des­pite the appeal­ing sound that invites you to dream, the lyr­ics remain too cheesy for me and don't reach the emo­tion­al depth that I would like. A song that cer­tainly has its moments, but can't com­pletely warm my heart.

Summery vibes and a melancholy finale

As a fan of synth pop and elec­tro pop, "Bullet For Narcissus" imme­di­ately grabbed me. The power­ful house beat makes the floor vibrate and forms the centrepiece of this track. The drums, straight out of a 90s drum com­puter, add a nos­tal­gic touch that har­mon­ises won­der­fully with the mod­ern ele­ments. The occa­sion­al funky gui­tar inter­ludes add fresh accents and bring a sum­mery light­ness to the mix. This song is a fas­cin­at­ing blend of old and new, per­fect for long sum­mer nights.

Oh Narcissus
It’s so delicious
to watch his make-up run
He sweats and panicky
fakes reality
He only cares for num­ber one
Lyrics of "Bullet For Narcissus" by "Pet Shop Boys"

We have arrived at the last song "Love Is The Law", from the album "Nonetheless". This mel­an­choly song unfolds slowly and is accom­pan­ied by a piano. It's not the usu­al bal­lad that you would typ­ic­ally expect at the end of an album. Instead, the listen­er exper­i­ences a roller­coast­er of emo­tions, accom­pan­ied by a son­ic vari­ety that stands out favour­ably from oth­er tracks. But when the song ended, an unusu­al feel­ing remained – as if some­thing was still miss­ing. This feel­ing of incom­plete­ness may be inten­tion­al, to pro­voke thought, or it could be a clev­er move that leaves us long­ing for more. How did you feel about the end of the album? Share your thoughts in the com­ments.

And every day
the price is paid
Love is the law
and a trick of the trade
Lyrics of "Love Is The Law" by "Pet Shop Boys"

A timeless album of true musical integrity

After more than 40 years in the busi­ness, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe obvi­ously still know how to cre­ate grip­ping songs. The selec­tion of singles shows that they know their strengths and use them effect­ively. The album made me per­son­ally very happy. It's not just a treat for fans of the Pet Shop Boys, but also for any lov­er of elec­tro pop. The coher­ence of the album "Nonetheless" and the vari­ety of emo­tions and styles it offers are impress­ive. Best of all, the Pet Shop Boys have stayed true to their dis­tinct­ive sound – a real treat for any­one look­ing for true music­al integrity.

Track by track rating for: Pet Shop Boys – Nonetheless

Pet Shop Boys - Nonetheless
Pet Shop Boys – Nonetheless
Why Am I Dancing?
New London Boy
Dancing Star
A New Bohemia
The Schlager Hit Parade
The Secret Of Happiness
Bullet For Narcissus
Love Is The Law
Dancing Star
(Nothing to report here)

Typical album cliché list for: Pet Shop Boys – Nonetheless

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Why Am I Dancing?
New London Boy
Dancing Star
A New Bohemia
The Schlager Hit Parade
The Secret Of Happiness
Bullet For Narcissus
Love Is The Law
Final Score