Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys Yes, they're still around. For more than 20 years, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have managed to do to dance-pop what Steely Dan did to jazz-pop — bend it on its ear, and turn a shallow pleasure into a bastion of intelligence, satire and true heart. Pet Shop Boys haven't charted in this country in ages, but even if their popular appeal is almost nonexistent, their creative fortitude has been inspiring. From 1993's poignant, ecstatic Very, in which Tennant started taking the lyrics to his love songs seriously, all the way to 2002's Release and this year's Fundamental, the duo has continually found new ways to transform disco and synth-pop into singer-songwriter expressions of doubt and loss. But what's even more interesting is the public evolution of Tennant. Once a chilly singer applying his impassive voice to some of the '80s' sharpest dance tracks, Tennant (now in his 50s) sounds no less sophisticated now that he's allowed some sorrow and introspection to creep into his delivery. Moving from irreverent youthfulness to full-blooded middle age, he and his band have been a bellwether of artistic integrity, expounding on homosexuality, the Iraq war, Catholic guilt, and sleeping with Eminem. Yes, they're still very much around.


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