Music Reviews
Disco 4

Pet Shop Boys Disco 4

(Parlophone) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Mrs. Awesome Non-Existent God, Thank You For Many Things, but what struck me today was Pet Shop Boys. Good one.

Before I get into discussing Disco 4, the latest batch of remixes brought to us courtesy of my favorite 80s British synth-pop duo (which is not a small declaration, I had to spend a few hours waging a fantasy pop league battle between them and Soft Cell before I wrote that), I'd like to gush over Pet Shop Boys a bit. Sure, they're well respected, but in the pop landscape you can be well respected and still better off dead. I think they deserve a touch of fanboy fawnery. For all of the great synth-pop units that graced England in the 80s, Pet Shop Boys possessed an uncommon skill and eloquence, and their music hasn't aged as harshly as their peers. Come to think of it, they're still making good music, as they have continued to for years after their spell as major pop stars.

There was a time when remixes were not the domain of major artists and collections of them were a novelty. That the latest PSB collection is their fourth speaks to their unabashed embrace of the dance community and the electronic revolution. This is underlined by the Discomoniker they've given to their remix compilations. Brooklyn has eradicated much shame in the hipster rock community concerning dance music, but there was a time when the nasty "Disco Sucks" popular backlash of the late 70s still held sway. Pet Shop Boys' insistence upon the disco affiliation was courageous and an early blow against rockism, that misguided dogma that white people lamely imitating black people with guitars had more credibility than supposedly stupid dance music. Pet Shop Boys were electronic pop stars who happened to routinely make very good albums with some of the wittiest lyrics and compositions out there, and they were not afraid to call themselves disco.

Furthermore, they have happily soldiered on while other 80s acts have flamed out or descended into irrelevance. Their ear for dance music is keen and wise, adapting to and incorporating the movements that have come and gone without getting swept up into embarrassing faddishness. Disco 4 sounds modern and technically faultless, but it owes more to a respect for the robotic pulse that has throbbed for years than an overwhelming attempt to ape whatever the new sound was when they remixed these tracks. It may not be as iconic and mindblowing as remix collections by the likes of younger artists like the DFA and Soulwax, but it has a certain timelessness. That makes a Pet Shop Boys comp a fair investment for anybody interested. It lacks that electronic anxiety of wondering if the release will sound ridiculously dated in two years time.

The artists remixed here reflect that balance between old and new. In the classic realm, the duo collaborate with David Bowie and Madonna, as well as offering a few of their own recent cuts for the remix treatment. Meanwhile, they also offer takes on current club darlings like Atomizer and crossover rockers The Killers (the version here of Read My Mind comes a lot closer than the original to reaching Springsteenian heights). Everything gets a smooth sheen, anchored to an uninsistent but propulsive four on the floor club bass, going through melodramatic passages and electronic effects oh so tastefully, as the epicurian Pet Shop Boys synth style lifts everything. Perhaps the most demonstrative example is the beauty they find in Rammstein's Mein Teil, stripped of guitars and more palatable but no less powerful or pleasurable. Disco 4, as its dutiful third sequel title indicates, is not revolutionary or unexpected, but I'll be damned if it isn't nice.