Pet Shop Boys Nonetheless album review

Pet Shop Boys – Nonetheless (Parlophone)

Neil Tennant is in the form of his life as the synth-pop legends celebrate going back home with one of their most diverse albums to date

Returning to their original label of Parlophone 12 years after Elysium looked like being the final album on their natural home, Pet Shop Boys mark the occasion with their most stately work since that polarising record.

Neil Tennant promised CP last year that “The strings are back”, which is in truth a worrying sign for those fans who found Elysium and Release just a little too sombre. That their new producer James Ford’s work with The Last Shadow Puppets, of all bands, was the reason PSB approached him – rather than, say, having Kylie, Jessie Ware or Depeche Mode on his CV – equally appears a head-scratcher.

Yet, if Nonetheless isn’t quite in the same class as Behaviour (and frankly, what is?), it certainly shares the spirt of their 1990  masterpiece. Rather than the “We’re serious artists” mood of 2002’s Release, here the strings and brass are largely there to bring extra joy.

Neil Tennant has rarely celebrated love so openly in his lyrics than Feel or The Secret Of Happiness, ballads which head further into the stars thanks to their opulent arrangements. For anyone who has Between Two Islands as their favourite PSB B-side, its Balearic bliss is back on The Secret Of Happiness.

The Joys Of Pop

The extravagance peaks on A New Bohemia, one of Tennant/Lowe’s richest and most dramatic songs, yet maintaining a truth and beauty thanks to Neil’s plaintive vocals at its core. Indeed, one of Nonetheless’ many joys is how beautiful Tennant’s voice is. He may joke that crying on the dancefloor is his comfort zone in the I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing mood of Why Am I Dancing?, yet Neil’s voice has never been so consistently emotional as it is across these 10 songs.

While Tennant’s gravitas dominates, Nonetheless isn’t especially earnest, as it’s still in thrall to the joys of pop: house banger Bullet For Narcissus is this album’s So Hard and the chunky Dancing Star could have bounced straight in from Side Two of Please. OK, that means we have to endure the weirdly garish The Schlager Hit Parade, which is basically what Pet Shop Boys haters think Pet Shop Boys always sound like, but one bit of eurotrash can’t disrupt an otherwise perfectly judged album.

Nonetheless is the most varied PSB LP since Fundamental, almost an instant Best Of for how many other Pets songs it brings to mind. It deserves to capitalise on any wayward fans returned to the fold since the endless post-Covid hits tour. And, given how good Neil Tennant’s vocals are here, it seems like Pet Shop Boys might just be getting started all over again.


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