On the new album Elysium, by the most cunning synth-pop group of the 80s, there is one great song: “Everything Means Something,” which boasts a taut, suspicious minor-key verse and a 12/8 chorus of pentatonic grandeur. So, does this album mean something? Unfortunately, beyond this one addictive track, the album’s a poor effort. Granted it doesn’t necessarily sound like it—the music is lush and usually melodic, and Neal Tennant is still an ideal singer for it; the sound of his voice is vulnerable, breathy, and sensitive, even though his actual singing is emotionally disengaged—but that’s to talk about the Pet Shop Boys, and not this album. The point is, Elysium sounds like the Pet Shop Boys, but with none of the cleverness, sharpness, or dramatic sense that made their sound meaningful. All of the hack-work on this album is competent and each individual song could be taken as ironic if there were anything on this album but the hack-work—and “Everything Means Something”. If there’s anything that means nothing, it’s probably the platitudes that make up the lyrics of “Winner,” also the first single off the album—a choice that obviously means something.
Nathan J. Campbell
Originally Published in the Fall 2012 Issue