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Pet Shop Boys / Hotspot: track by track

Pet Shop Boys / Hotspot review

SDE reviews the new album

The Pet Shop Boys don’t really have much left to prove and could easily see out the rest of their days selling out greatest hits tours. Actually (no pun intended), they are doing just that in 2020, but in the time-honoured tradition of any self-respecting ‘veteran’ pop/rock artist they aren’t going on the road without new material, which presumably keeps things interesting for them and also means they can’t be perceived as an ‘oldies’ act.

Not that you imagine writing and recording a new album is much trouble for Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. They clearly love the process and have never been short of material. In the last year they have not only delivered a standalone EP (Agenda) with four exclusive tracks, but they’ve also released the new album Hotspot and – almost uniquely – still regularly offer non-album B-sides, on physical formats, with four available across the first three singles. Respect.

Hotspot is a ten track album, so let’s go through each song:

Will-O-The-Wisp’ is a dramatic opener – all EDM chords and pulsing beats – and has a great verse melody, which Neil delivers beautifully. The song has a very strong and interesting lyric of curiosity and regret, as the narrator wonders what’s become of a former acquaintance (or lover) who is glimpsed “on an airplane or train”. The chorus is more repetitive chant than melodic wonder, but this is all reassuringly ‘Pet Shop Boys’ and is a buoyant opener which promises much.

‘You Are The One’ is a slowish love song with a catchy chorus, although like ‘Will-O-The-Wisp’, it’s the verses that I really enjoyed, with their references to Berlin (where Neil and Chris recorded the album and spend a fair amount of time) and the evocation of life’s simple pleasures – spending the day in a city with someone; wandering around dropping into cafés; seeing a film and going “to a bar you know” for a drink.

Happy People’ has a couple of significant things going for it, namely a distinctive late eighties/early nineties house piano and Neil’s trademark spoke word narrative, although this is a bit more ‘Metamorphosis’ (from 1996’s Bilingual’) than ‘West End Girls’. The chorus is a just too twee for me to fully enjoy and lyrically for the first time I’m not engaged.

Dreamland’ starts with the strident authority of ‘It’s A Sin’ and it’s easy to see why this was chosen as the lead single. It’s a collaboration with Olly Alexander from young synthpop band Years and Years and it’s a hard to find fault, with a powerful production and a hooky chorus. On paper this ticks all the boxes… but somehow I don’t LOVE it. It’s possibly a bit too slick and pleased with itself. Regardless, if you were its boss you’d feel obliged to give it a good appraisal (or reference) despite a few nagging doubts – it gets the job done efficiently and without fuss.

Hoping for a Miracle’ is wonderful. A ballad dripping with a ‘Love Comes Quickly’ vibe of desire, pain and regret. Like all great songs, it flows effortlessly, with every keyboard line, vocoder phrase or break, cued in perfectly. The lyric is interesting and the everyman simplicity of the repeating ‘Hoping For A Miracle’ phrase, combined with the sincerity of the delivery, means this track should connect with many. The first song on Hotspot to really move me, this is almost Behaviour quality. By far the best song on the album.

We pick up the pace for ‘I Don’t Wanna’, a mid-paced number which has a satisfyingly analogue-sounding production, rather evoking the early days. Just as catchy as ‘Dreamland’ but a somehow a bit more interesting, despite a pretty straightforward lyric about a “lonely boy” who “sits at home with no one around.” Again, the vocoder is back, which is always a good thing.

Monkey Business seems to have proved a little divisive since it was announced as the third single, but I really enjoy the lighthearted tongue-in-cheek disco vibes and there’s no doubt it has a funky groove. The boys are definitely having a lot of fun and ultimately (surely a PSB title-in-waiting?) it’s quite infectious. This will sound great in the car, driving along with your elbow hanging out the window. The Japanese CD version of Hotspot includes the absolutely brilliant ’Prins Thomas diskmiks’ version as a bonus track, which runs for nearly nine minutes (it will be on the CD single and 12-inch too).

Only in the Dark’ is the slightly less attractive sibling of ‘Hoping For A Miracle’, echoing its Behaviour-style vibes and offering quite sophisticated extended chorus melody. This is an unabashed love song (like ‘You Are The One’) which the Pet Shop Boys get away with because the pillow-soft arrangement is so good and the song has a strong melody and a decent lyric.

The acoustic guitar at the beginning of the autumnal Burning The Heather (courtesy of Bernard Butler) is a refreshing palate-cleanser, after all the electronics. The Pet Shop Boys are always at their best when regret hangs heavy in the air and there’s certainly a mysteriousness in this lyric of misunderstanding and doubt (“you’ve got me all wrong / there’s no one I’m missing / I’m quite happy to be alone / there are no lips I’m kissing”). It’s an appropriately moody penultimate track, although a curious second single (even if it wasn’t a fully-fledged one).

The album ends with ‘Wedding in Berlin’ which is a clubby, dubby track, incorporating elements of Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘The Wedding March’. While this isn’t supposed to be a proper song, as such, and even if Neil is chanting more than singing, it’s still hard to forgive the inanity of the lyric: “We’re getting married / a lot of people do it / don’t matter if they’re straight or gay / we’re getting married / because we love each other / we’re getting married today”. It’s deliberately dumbed down, but nevertheless this is a disappointingly naff ending to Hotspot and I feel olbliged to raise my hand and declare to the congregation of PSB fans that ‘Wedding in Berlin’ is an awful impediment to the album. Hotspot would have been improved by its absence, or even with something equally weird – but actually good – like the electro brilliance of ‘Decide’, which was hidden away on the B-side of ‘Burning The Heather’.

Despite this disappointment deep into extra time, Hotspot is a rather enjoyable Pet Shop Boys album. The songs are mostly good-to-great although I find the production a tad generic at times and I miss the hi-fi precision and clarity of Neil and Chris’ work with the likes of Stephen Hague, Harold Faltermeyer and Trevor Horn. If this is indeed the last of a ‘trilogy’ of Stuart Price produced albums, then I’ll look forward to the change next time.

Hotspot is out now. Third single, ‘Monkey Business’, is released on Friday. What do you think of the new album? Leave a comment.

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Hotspot - CD edition

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Burning the Heather - seven inch single

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Hotspot

1. Will-O-The-Wisp
2. You Are The One
3. Happy People
4. Dreamland
5. Hoping For A Miracle
6. I Don’t Wanna
7. Monkey Business
8. Only The Dark
9. Burning The Heather
10. Wedding In Berlin

Monkey Business CD single / vinyl LP

1 Monkey business (radio edit)
2 Monkey business (Prins Thomas diskomiks)
3 At rock bottom
4 Monkey business (friend Within remix)

96 responses to Pet Shop Boys / Hotspot: track by track

  1. Molo says:

    It’s the second time I am not listening to a new PSB album after buying it.
    The first time it was Elysium.
    I like Elysium now…

  2. John hannacher says:

    when I first heard it I went “how lame”. but really it’s a grower if you listen to it…..yeah eggy

  3. Maresky says:

    All of that isn’t Super, Introspective, Actually, Disco 1… Being boring.

  4. Michel75 says:

    Wedding in Berlin together with Monkey Business are the two most interesting tracks, sounding different and fresh. They could expand the Monkey « funky/groovy » approach to a full album, collaborating with Roisin Murphy for instance. At this stage in their career, PSB should be able to do what they want without caring much about people who still want another « Very », phenomenal success in 93 but certainly their album which has aged the least well. Hopefully they won’t work again with past producers but look into the future: I dream of Jamie from The XX to produce their next, with Nils Frahm and the Sparks as guests…or work with SuperPitcher. Last dream: get another B-side and Bonus compilation (2010-2020).
    Thanks Paul for the great site, the passion and this open forum.

  5. Chris Juul says:

    “Wedding In Berlin” goes along with ‘Sad Robot World’ and ‘Your Early Stuff”as some of their ‘worst’ songs in recent memory. It’s inane. The lyrics stupid. The wedding march as disco? Come on. ‘Decide’, ‘An Open Mind’ and ‘No Boundaries’ all should have been on this record. ‘Decide’ should have been a single.

  6. TJ Martinez says:

    AWESOME! Hotspot does not disappoint. Nearly every song has been playing in my head since I first heard Hotspot in my car. Initially, I heard the lead singles on You-Tube while at work. This was a big mistake. These songs did not sound right. I blame the poor sound of the computer. Once I heard these same songs on a nice sound system, WOW! The songs came alive! My advise to those who listened to the songs on You-Tube, try listening to them on a proper system, it makes a huge difference. Great job Chris and Neil.

  7. Disco says:

    is that Herbie Hancock on the vocoder in Monkey Business?

  8. Dan says:

    I’m a big fan of Stuart Price but have been underwhelmed by the SP + PSB collaborations. Maybe my expectations have been too high? Hotspot proved better than expected. I agree “Dreamland” is missing something… kinda like a meal made with the finest ingredients, but lacks salt. “Wedding…” is a great track and I wish they would have just made it an instrumental—the lyrics kill it for me. Overall I think this one will continue to grow on me as the layers dissect a bit. Sonically, Hotspot could be Release’s newborn sibling. Not a bad thing!

  9. Alan Taylor says:

    Great track by track summary and I share your opinion of the closing track. As I listened through the album I was quite happy with it, until “Wedding in Berlin” spilled out of my speakers. It’s the first PSB song that makes has made me feel completely embarrassed while listening to it. I was honestly looking around to see if anyone else was within earshot and turned down the volume as I had a window open and desperately didn’t want anyone else to hear it. It is a simply dreadful ending to an otherwise great album. I mean “Monkey Business” is incredibly silly, but remains triumphantly enjoyable. They really should have swapped in one of the (all superior) b-sides or just stopped the album at 9 songs. At least it’s easy enough to lop off the last track and pretend it never happened.

  10. “Wedding in Berlin” is wonderful. Being gay, it immediately struck me as a joyous anthem. Certain songs will have a resonance for some audiences and not others. Of course, you might be gay and think the song is crap. But I love it on many levels. Album overall is excellent. I love all the throwback sounds mixed in with modern dance grooves.

    And they’ve obviously got so many good songs that they’re consigning things like “Decide” which could have been an album track as b-side (yay for the vinyl single!).

    • Bryan says:

      David: agree 100%. In fact, at first play of the CD, this was the standout track for me. Maybe it resonates more with certain audience members?

      • EW99 says:

        I love Wedding In Berlin. I think it has to be one of the most bonkers songs in the PSB canon and it makes me smile every time it kicks in. The ravey beats mixing into the Mendelssohn works so well and the lyrics,while banal, totally fit with the feel of the song.

        But then I really like Groovy off of Super so what do I know.

  11. Michael says:

    Thanks for the great review, Paul. I just got the disc a couple of days ago alas in the states… with the 2 cd set. I really enjoy the album. I suppose in some sense it does sound like a “return” for PSB but I cannot say to exactly when. Their albums with Stuart Price have really gotten me back into them… more into them than ever, personally. I really love Super. Hotspot feels more “classic” from them, mostly… but yeah, the last song is pretty weak. I like it for the early 90s club track sound… but that wedding march… and the words, are a bit silly. I enjoy the instrumental a bit better for that one.
    But all in all I am very pleased with the album. As a whole I like it better than most of their albums, in terms of having a liking for pretty much ever track.

  12. Pierre Britten says:

    Hi Paul
    Thank you for a very thoughtful review.
    I love the album but I’m no expert, as I stopped caring about the PSB (for no good reason) after “Very” and have no point of comparison with the albums of the last two decades. I have all thes discs on my shelves (from “Bilingual” to “Super”) but I’m not sure I listened to them more than once or once and a half each. So, admittedly, I have a lot of reappraisal to do, and that’s because of you (grrrrrrrr).
    After listening to Hotspot several times, the songs that stuck in my mind and I keep humming absently are “You Are the One” and “I Don’t Wanna”. Just saying… But I love them all. I even love the cover. There’s a sort of elegance to it. Makes me think of those early eighties grey and foggy Cure album covers …
    As for “Wedding in Berlin”, it MUST be some sort of sick inside joke. I mean, saying you’re getting married because you like each other is like saying you’re going to the food store because you like eating. Or saying you’re going to the cinema because you like movies. Or saying you’re going to the library because you like books. Or saying… Well, you know what I mean. And then, why use the word “like”? Are people not supposed to get married becouse they LOVE each other? And the “gay or straight” line would have been a nice touch… about twenty years ago. In fact, that song is so wrong at so many levels that it’s more or less all right in the end, in a kind of absurb way. I never skip it. All great albums have got a weak track or two. That’s what makes them humane.

  13. Kauwgompie says:

    When you do a review you potentially open yourself up to a lot of disagreement but most people seem to be in agreement. I think this is a great review and agree with many of the things you say.

    To me the best songs is “I Don’t Wanna”. It has a great melody & chorus with great synths. Should be released as the next single. Simply outstanding and classic PSB.

    Monkey Business is just average. It has a certain quality to it but to release it as a single? No. On the contrary, Burning The Heather was a great single choice.

    In the 80’s everyone loved “West End Girls” but when they followed that up with “Love Comes Quickly” I knew these guys were special. Still one of my favorite PSB songs till this day. If you listen to the “Further Listening” editions of the PSB albums, you quickly realize how great these guys are. Almost not a bad song on any of these albums, only average at worst. Same with this album. I find this the best of the Stuart Price era. Highly recommend it. Still waiting for the signed 2CD edition in the mail.

  14. NightFlightToVenus says:

    Bang on.
    Wedding in Berlin IS dreadful and should have been a b side. It ends an otherwise good album on a badly conceived note, which is unusual for PSB. Agreed that Happy People wears thin quickly and Hoping for a Miracle is the stand out track.
    But these nit picks aside, how lucky are we that this pair are still producing records of this quality?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks. Unusually, we are getting a fairly large consensus in terms of what is ‘good’ and what isn’t with this album. Opinions don’t vary that much.

  15. Mark says:

    I’m really enjoying the album. Sounds fantastic on the headphones. I find the return to a classic PSB sound refreshing after the last few albums. We all have different ears and love songs others don’t and vice versa. I wasn’t taken by any of the singles after one listen but after playing the full album over and over I’m definitely sold. I do tend to skip final two tracks every other listen just to get back to Will-o-the-wisp which is a stunner. My favourite album since Fundamental I think

  16. K says:

    Managed to avoid all reviews and commentary until the 2CD arrived today!

    I get why so many longtime fans still like Neil’s wordy songs the most, but I honestly think his sense of lyricism was better when he wasn’t trying to pack so much in – too many years of life and experience, too many things to say.

    The beauty of the lyrics on Behaviour was not what they said – it’s what they left unsaid. Burning the Heather works on that level in a way that other songs lately have been lacking (like, yes, Hoping for a Miracle).

    I’m going to say Wedding in Berlin is a better way to close the album than with songs like Into Thin Air, Legacy, and You Choose.

  17. Nigel D Day says:

    Think I’ll pass if Hoping For A Miracle is the best track. This wouldn’t have made a B side in the “old days” and the last track sounds hair raising
    I’m done.

  18. Anthony says:

    As a long time fan I have to agree with Paul’s verdict.After Super I’d heard it rumoured things were going to slow down & this would be the ballads album. I was expecting ballad era PSB like In Private, So Sorry I Said, Confifential, Do I Have To etc When I heard Dreamland my heart sunk a little & while Burning The Heather was more like it, Monkey Business made me know this album wasn’,t quite going to live up to expectation. It seems the Boys were torn. But Holding Out For A Miracle is of the right calibre & will find itself on repeat. As for Wedding In Berlin oh dear oh dear. On the positive side apparently the boys had recorded 20+ tracks for this album so go on surprise us with another in 12 months ala Electric after Elysium

  19. Mick Lynch says:

    Hi paul, thanks for the review. I actually thought ‘Hoping For A Miracle’ was the dud track on the album. I agree that there are better songs left off the album than on it. I would have loved Give Stupidity A Chance to be on hre (rather than the EP), and as you said, Decide. I love Burning The Heather, and You Are The One, and no. 3 is justified (no. 20 in ireland). it doesnt deserve to be no. 1, but there’s nothing on here that comes close to ‘Love is a Bourgeous Construct’, but I’m glad the trilogy of Berlin albums is over (how come no one else ever thought of doign this lol). Looking forward to a new sound from them this decade.

  20. jut2k says:

    Good review. It’s an interesting and mildly unexpected conclusion to the Price-produced trilogy. I enjoy the acoustics of the album – it’s has a lovely “warm” sound (especially appreciated as a fan of analogue synths) and for me is best enjoyed from beginning to end. I can defend PSB ’til the cows come home, but “Wedding in Berlin” really is a bit of a stinker. However, overall, it’s a solid 7/10’er and fits snuggly mid-table within what is an incredible discography. Enjoy them while they are still releasing new music.
    PS. if Disco 5 actually happens, and is a compendium of top-drawer mixes from the last three albums, then I’ll be dancing on my kitchen table. Possibly.

  21. Glenn says:

    Thanks for the review Paul. PSB have been one of my favorite acts since the 80s. A new album is always an event. Enjoying the album so far. Have been streaming it as I await my 2 CD to be shipped to the US. Would be nice if they shipped these prior to the release date knowing they will take a while to arrive internationally.

    Nice to hear Disco 5 may be in the pipeline. Would be good to get the ‘Decide’ – CYA Remix on it since it was only released digitally. Assume we will have to wait for the next b-sides compilation to get Decide on CD. Sad as it is a great song.

    Hoping they bring the tour to the US this year. Assume they will.

  22. Paul Deards says:

    “Wedding in Berlin” is the best/worst song they’ve released since “Absolutely Fabulous”. Enjoyment depends on your tolerance of cheesiness!

  23. Fred says:

    The intro of Dreamland make me think of the intro of Madonna’s Deeper and deeper

    • colinthebruce says:

      It also highly riffs on Shameless by The Human League. Instant I heard it I recognised the chords…oh shambles oh!

  24. Sam says:

    Completely agree with every word of your review – Will O the Wisp’s stunning verse melody make it the best banger here, Hoping for a Miracle is the absolutely stand out, with Only the Dark close behind. I quite like Happy People though – I think there’s a sardonic angle to it which stops it being too cheese. I’m assured to see people mentioning their issues with the SP trilogy. The boxy, digitally compressed sound completely stopped me from enjoying Electric and Super. This one is more forgiving as more analogues were used. But it lacks the hi fi quality of their heyday. Overall a solid LP, best of the Price albums and a good late career effort if not quite Yes or Bilingual level. 7/10

  25. StephendC says:

    I love Wedding In Berlin.

    That is all.

    Thanks!

  26. Soren says:

    Is Disco 5 in pipeline any rumours?

  27. Tim Abbott says:

    Review is spot-on. Agree with your stance on the two most divisive tracks; Monkey Business is excellent, and Wedding in Berlin is astonishingly awful. I haven’t heard a worse closing track to an otherwise-good album since The White Stripes’ Elephant in 2003.

    My only niggle is that the lyrics seem to be less and less inspired as they progress. There are some very clunky couplets that detract overall – the one in You Are The One that rhymes “A tingle tangle chittering and chattering/ By the fountain spluttering and splattering” is just a bit weak. But still (apart from the upcoming Sparks record) it’s hard to think of a band who’re still putting out music of this quality so far into their career, plus PSB have the advantage that they’ve never really dipped too low in quality, unlike Sparks who had a few years of wilderness in the late-80s.

  28. Pete {in Australia} says:

    Still awaiting my 2cd set fro the UK to arrive. I lived in Hope that someone in Australia, would stock it, or at least be able to order it from…………..well only one place, but double the price, than getting it sent from Pet Shopy Boys wesbite.
    My fav at this point in time, is Will-O-Wisp. Followed by Happy People and Hoping for a Miracle. The singles, well i often tend to like album tracks better, the best of those for me, has been Burning The Heather. Monkey Business, just does not gel with me. Love Decide, the B side of Burning The Heather, and there is an awesome {Blade Extended Mastermix}, of the song…which needs to be released officially! I pulled out “Electric” last year and gave it a few spins. Have liked the last three albums, but like others, look forward to a new producer, and maybe a different direction from Neil and Chris. :)

  29. memoryboy says:

    1. Willow-O-The-Wisp.
    I think it’s a great opening track. It builds up nicely. It’s fine up until the repetitive “Willow-O-The-Wisp”! Chanting near the end, it’s get annoying to me.
    I like it. I don’t love it.
    I see me skipping this one.

    2. You Are The One.
    LOVE this song.
    Sometimes a song hits the right spot.
    This one reminds me of a track off…
    Behaviour? Such a sweet tune.
    One of my favorites off this album.

    3. Happy People.
    I really like this one.
    I like the synths in the opening.
    I think it works, the chorus and lyrics.
    I think I might prefer this over “Hoping For A Miracle” slightly. Love that one too.
    I like the lyrics to ‘Happy People’.
    This track reminds me of one of their 90’s songs. The style and music. Perhaps something off “Very”? Or “Bilingual”.
    It’s very good.

    4. Dreamland.
    I like this track.
    I actually prefer the remixes.
    And I agree with some here this track doesn’t stand out as the albums best, but it does the job. The remixes are more exciting for this track and let the song breathe and bring more excitement. It’s a great dance track.

    5. Hoping For A Miracle.
    Cinematic. Dramatic. Great song.
    One of the albums best.
    Remundd me of something off “Release”?
    Or “Actually”? “Behaviour “?
    I do feel I’ve heard this before, for some reason. Same with “Happy People”.
    They just sound familiar. Not a bad thing.

    6. I Don’t Wanna.
    One if my top favorites on here.
    Along with “Monkey Business” I find myself playing this the most.

    7. Monkey Business.
    Maybe the best track on the album. And that’s saying something for such a great album. This track is just fun. And Groovy!

    8. Only The Dark.
    One of the albums best. Single material.
    It does sound like I’ve heard it before somewhere. Very catchy, has a polished, predictable quality. I think it has potential to be a single. Nothing exciting or unpredictable. It’s just a good song.

    9. Burning The Heather.
    It’s a great track. It’s right up there with “Only The Dark”. It’s a great album track. I find it’s strange this was released as a single. But it’s good enough to be a single.

    10. Wedding In Berlin.
    I love this track and think it’s perfect as a closing track. When I first heard it it made me tear up a bit. Me being gay and the struggles and victories surrounding gay marriage, I found this track to be touching. It’s got great energy, sentiment.
    And how ballsy to put this on the end of this album and not as a b-side. What a statement. It’s got great energy. And gets the sentiment across well. I love it.

    Excellent album.

    • Daryl says:

      I haven’t heard Wedding In Berlin yet, but that’s a nice, refreshing take on the last track, memoryboy.
      I will try to listen to it from your viewpoint!

  30. Rich P says:

    Been a hardcore fan since 1986. Hotspot is a solid PSB album – some really great tracks with typical Neil and Chris hooks and lyrics. Highlights for me are Happy People, will-O-The-Wisp and hoping for a miracle. Wedding in Berlin is head-scratchingly woeful. What were they thinking????

  31. Leon says:

    I remember buying Please back in 1986 and playing Hotspot on vinyl this week threw me back to those years. Disco 5 is on the horizon I’ve heard, so I’m hoping for some thoughtfully engineered Hotspot remixes… (Obviously of Disco quality rather than Disco 2)

  32. Jason says:

    Just a quick note that I love seeing people on here discovering PSB for the first time! It’s so easy to take for granted that since they have been around for 35 years and you just assume everyone has heard their albums already. It’s nice to see people checking them out and deciding to explore the catalog more. They are definitely a cut above most pop music and have always produced quality work worth adding to a physical collection. Their Further Listening series on CD is particularly good with all the expanded music and booklets…it’s like a box set that’s been carved into bite-sized portions…

    I also just wanted to take a second to remind people that Stuart Price has done some amazing work, creating two of the finest albums of legacy pop artists Madonna (Confessions on a Dance Floor) and Kylie (Aphrodite) in the past couple decades, so while he worked a lot with the Killers too, he has had a hand in some of the best electronic-driven pop music since Y2K. I may personally prefer some of the work they did with Hague, Horn, Faltermeyer, and Xenomania, but the Price era has definitely had some winners too.

  33. Neil says:

    Have to disagree with wedding in Berlin comments, makes me chuckle ever time I hear it great track. everyone would love it if it were a bside, so let’s chuck it on an album and see the reaction !Beauty is the boys do different stuff all the time. I think this album has a nice mix of songs, last two were great for the dance fans.

  34. Jef says:

    I’ve enjoyed “Monkey Business” much more after having watched the music video. To me, it’s Chris and Neil’s version of “Let’s Have a Kiki” by Scissor Sisters.

    Thanks for the track-by-track commentary, Paul. I’ve played the album in the background while working and in the car, but I haven’t given it a careful listen yet with my headphones. I also want to check out the B-sides, as I’ve always been a fan of them.

  35. martin farnworth says:

    I think “Willow The Wisp” is the best PSB opener in years possibly even since “Can You Forgive Her”. Also the album is one of the most solid in years even though the singles are among the weakest tracks. This isn’t crucial as PSB don’t have hit singles anymore. I can’t put my finger on “Dreamland”- perhaps too obvious a melody that falls a little flat. My hopes weren’t so high for this album but a think it has much more depth than “Super” and bears repeated listening.

  36. Shane says:

    Are the lyrics in the Japan cd accurate?
    I dont care for Dreamland at all, the Y&Y vocals are bad. Wedding is not a good closer as many say.

  37. SimonP says:

    I’ve skipped reading the other comments bit this album is £8 in Tesco and I apologise if this is a repeat.

  38. Otto says:

    Great conclusion in your article. I also really don’t like Wedding in Berlin and it pulls the album down. I didn’t enjoy the lyrics as much as you did as I found them not up to standard. But the best thing is the Stuart Price period is now finished.

  39. Stephen says:

    Enjoyed this review a lot. Thanks, Paul.

    I am new to the PSBs as for some reason they passed me by. I have only Very and Discography (both excellent). So where next?! Any recommendations appreciated.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thanks. Lucky you! I’d recommend going back to the beginning and working through Please, Actually, Introspective and then Behaviour. Very is the next album after those.

    • Paul Lefrere says:

      Give Fundamental and Electric a go, both great albums, in my opinion

    • Richard Fenick says:

      all…ever album….Yes is up there with Very. Please is killer amazing & all that follow. no bad albums…none & on the new one, Wedding in Berlin is great & not sure why some do not like. A true PSB fan will like it.

    • paul says:

      Actually (ALBUM) is as good as Please for me it’s the psb second best album.

  40. Daz says:

    Hi paul many thanks for all you do, i have the double cd of hotspot do you think its worth buying the cd single of monkey business for the extended mix? many thanks again

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Definitely. You get two mixes, the radio edit (the only place to find this on CD) and a new B-side. Interestingly, even though the Japanese version of Hotspot has nothing exclusive (after Friday), it does have a booklet with all the lyrics in English and Japanese which I really like (no lyrics in the UK booklet).

      • Daz says:

        Thanks for that paul i will get it friday when its released.

      • Graeme says:

        First time I’ve seen it mentioned that there are no lyrics in the U.K. version. I did wonder when I saw this in my copy, whether they were embarrassed by the lyrics to “Monkey Business”…?

  41. Bob says:

    A pretty spot on review, Paul. I think that the pet shop boys have an incredibly varied fan base. There are those who are all about the club floor bangers, the group who are devoted to the infectious pop ditties and the smaller but very vocal group of fans that love and live for those bizarre, obscure songs that most of us only listen to once. (I’m looking at you, Wedding In Berlin) -Pretty sure that song was written on a dare. After giving this album at least 1 full listen daily since its release, to my ears, it feels like it’s a calculated and deliberate attempt to appease everyone. And as this site has taught me, that’s an unattainable goal. There’s simply no way to please everyone. But when I look over their incredible 30 + year career, I can’t help but be in awe of it all. The really good albums far outweigh the not so great. And although Hotspot will never be my favourite psb album (none of the Stewart Price trilogy are even in my top 5) I still think its a great listen. Just today, I discovered that this is the first pet shop boys album where I prefer the ballads to the uptempo tracks. Overall though, I echo the sentiment of most of the fans in that I, too, will be looking forward to a new producer on the next album.

  42. motte says:

    It might be interesting that Wedding ist the name of a district of Berlin.
    So “Wedding in Berlin” is not just an event but also a place.

  43. mike says:

    Yep, good to great is a sensible sum up. I think we can be grateful for two things, one, its considerably better than (the not at all) Super and two, this is the last Stuart Price production. heaven knows why he is rated…

  44. Dan says:

    I really like Hotspot, Happy People is my favourite song and I quite enjoy Wedding In Berlin, it’s camp and fun.

  45. Michel Banen says:

    I just received the 2-CD + signed print here in Germany and am listening to the CD for the 1st time while reading above review. I’m not very familiar with the Pet Shop Boys but as an 80’s fanatic the signed print of these legends made me buy it, considering the 2-CD a nice bonus. And wow – I’m anything but disappointed ! I actually find myself loving all tracks so far on the first play. Instrumentally the album is a great production too so I will love playing this on my pro-logic set in virtual 5.1.

  46. Matthew Jessee says:

    Fantastic review, Paul! I enjoyed Monkey Business very much (love the video) and just diving into the album now.

  47. Andy B says:

    I pretty much agree with your comments Paul. I think this is better than the previous two albums but nowhere near the quality of the like of ‘Actually’, ‘Behaviour’, ‘Very’ or ‘Yes’. It’s great that they are still releasing new material though. I agree that some of their b-sides are better than some album tracks. Like you, I just can’t get into ‘Dreamland’. For me, there’s ‘something’ missing. ‘Monkey Business’ isn’t grabbing me either. I think ‘Wedding In Berlin’ is one of the worst tracks they have ever released. The rest of the album, I think, is pretty good.

  48. Jason says:

    Basically another great PSB album in a string of them. Wedding in Berlin is bonkers fun but I couldn’t believe it actually made it to the album when a song like B-side An Open Mind was cut. How odd! How PSB!

    Other than me liking Happy People more than SDE Paul, I think we agree on much of this. I also agree 10 track albums seem well balanced somehow (especially since their first 3 are this way), but somehow, like Release, this seems like 9 songs and a place holder with Berlin being that album’s Samurai. Even Super seems like 9 songs with 3 toss offs, and Electric seems like only 7 with 2 in Axis and Shouting. However, the length of Electric’s songs was something they hadn’t done since Introspective and seemed fresh. Wish they’d pursued this a bit. That being said, Very was my favorite album with 12 songs that were all actual songs so…

    Hotspot is very good but Yes, it’s time for a new producer. Price did a good job on creating a certain sound, but I prefer the sound of Horn and Hague (Xenomania did a good job too). A solid 4 stars.

  49. Andrew Dineley says:

    As a die hard Pethead, this release was a long time coming and I’d got myself very excited after Dreamland, Burning The Heather and their excellent b-sides. I’ve been playing Hotspot now for a week and I just can’t love it, as hard as I try. Today I decided to put the best tracks into my library and only added Will-o-the-wisp and Happy People, the rest are mediocre for me with Wedding in Berlin being unlistenable (though the instrumental version is a mild improvement).

  50. Roy says:

    I strongly agree with this review. As for track #10: I recently played “No Boundaries” (the Dreamland b-side) right after Hotspot. I think it would have made a lovely closing track on the album, with a similar message. A Wedding In Berlin sounds painfully out of place. Almost all 96 (!) Pet Shop Boys b-sides are better songs.

    I also agree with the production comments. I’m sure Stuart Price did his best. Clearly, a lot of effort was put into this record. Yet the production lacks something. It may be caused by poor mastering; I’m not sure yet. Dreamland lacks higher frequencies, Burning The Heather has a weird, distorted noise underneath the lead vocals. I tried to filter the annoying frequencies myself. It shouldn’t be necessary to do so.

    Other tracks, like Will-o-the-wisp, Happy People, Hoping For A Miracle and I Don’t Wanna, are great PSB tracks, yet the overall sound quality is worse than the average 90s PSB album track. The sound of the whole album has a low quality mp3 feeling to it. It could and should have sounder better than it does.

  51. Pete Harris says:

    Some Specualtion: perhaps Wedding in Berlin was included on the album primarily because, as a wedding gift to their friends, they agreed to donate the corresponding royalties to those friends (or a charity of their choice). Otherwise, a B-side would perhaps have been a more appropriate option for this track…

  52. Trash says:

    Nice review Paul.
    I can’t say whether I like it or not – still need to listen to it a few times. But one thing that did strike me about your review is the you mention at the start that it is a ten-track album.

    For me ten-tracks has always been the sweet-spot for albums (harking back the vinyl era when two tracks was pretty much the norm). As soon as CD started getting popular albums became longer, but not necessarily any better, as artists added more tracks to fill up the space available – which in turn often meant that more duff tracks made it out into the wild.
    My humble opinion of course…

  53. Craig Hedges says:

    The overall sound of the last three albums has been the main detractor for me. I noticed it on Electric and my theory is that Chris wanted it to sound like an old vinyl 12” single, Like The Flirts ‘Passion’. Stuart Price is obviously a fan of the Disco and Please albums and that album followed a lot of the traits from those albums. But I think he soon ran out of ideas on the follow ups, they might have had a good time in the studio but I think the production was phoned in on Hotspot. Neil made a big thing in the interviews about the fact the album was mostly recorded in Hansa Studios, it doesn’t really make a good advert for them!
    I hate the wobbly, woozy synths which sound like they are from a badly pressed vinyl record, most of tracks on the album start with them and everything sounds out of tune.
    30 years on from ‘Only the wind’ we get ‘Only the dark’ which is my favourite track. This should a lot like an Alan Tarney produced Cliff Richard track from the early 80s. Shame he hasn’t produced them. I liked ‘Hoping for a miracle’ until Neil announced it was another song about bloody Tony Blair, along with ‘l get along’, ‘I’m with stupid’ an ‘Legacy’. Blimey Neil get over it!
    Song wise there aren’t really any classics like the late 80s early 90s period and going forward I think they should really consider if they have anything left to say.

  54. Gary Hunter says:

    Good article Paul, totally agree with you regards “Wedding In Berlin”, a dreadful track and an awful way to end the album, I can’t stand “Dreamland” or “Monkey Business”, but the rest of the album is good.

  55. Dean says:

    Nice piece Paul, totally agree on the comments on the opening track… brilliant lyric.
    ‘But maybe you’ve gone respectable, with a wife and job and all that. Working for the local government and living in a rented flat’.
    I adore ‘Wedding in Berlin’ for it’s weirdness!
    Only minus point is the non inclusion of the B-sides, the album is rather short at only 10 tracks.

  56. Marko says:

    For me best track is Hoping For A Miracle & worst track is Wedding in Berlin. Album is pretty solid with outstanding ‘Hoping For A Miracle’, very good songs like “Happy People” & “Monkey Business” and average songs like “I don’t Wanna” & “Only The Dark”. Also, I don’t like “Will-O-The-Wisp” that much.

  57. daveid76 says:

    The bit in Willothewisp when the brakes go on for a moment and he says “Give me a smile for old times sake before you run away” is one of the most potent musical moments they’ve ever recorded. It’s very filmic and highly evocative, like a slow motion moment of serendipity before the train speeds on again.

  58. James says:

    Very much love Berlin Wedding and Happy People is such an interesting take on our society, the chorus is takes it to a euphoric level. What a magical juxtaposition of sad and happy.

  59. oystein says:

    I think you’re spot on on most accounts – I had the same experience with “Dreamworld” as you, can’t fault it but don’t “love” it. Will-o-the-wisp is a great opener, probably my favourite of Hotspot.

    When a band has such a huge back catalogue though, to me it’s more or less a case of finding a couple more tracks to love, and they still do that for me. I suppose even if they wrote another Behaviour I wouldn’t recognise it as such, the old one already having 30 years as a favourite album of mine, regardless of artist…

  60. Ken says:

    I aint heard the LP yet.But I thought I would just point out that in my experience most acts that have been going for over 30 yrs both put on good live shows and often write and release good stuff when compared to the dross that fills the top 40 singles chart.Both Neil and Chris are too talented and clever to ever write and release dross. Even a bad PSB song is usually better than what most acts can offer us.Sometimes PSB even pull their better songs from their LP’s and waste them as b-sides/out-takes So I think it is a bit silly to run-down PSB and their musical efforts.

  61. Fady says:

    I’ll try again as I’m not sure my comment got through. Fair review Paul but curious as to how you managed to hear the Monkey Business (Prins Thomas diskomiks) remix? I can’t find it anywhere.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Give me a chance, you only posted that comment 14 minutes ago!! I have the Japanese CD which is how I’ve heard it.

  62. Justin says:

    I actually like ‘Wedding in Berlin’ probably because of its weirdness, and ‘Will O The Wisp’ is a great opener. I too haven’t enjoyed the Stuart Price production style across this run of albums, it’s boxy and overcompressed which doesn’t help the recordings breathe and robs the tracks of some fullness and grandeur. Despite some initial reservations about certain tracks (I Don’t Wanna and Burning The Heather), I’m enjoying the album more with every listen. Am waiting for the vinyl to be delivered.

  63. Jason says:

    I like it. It’s the best of the Stuart Price era. I also find the sound compressed and harsh – as though it was mixed for playing on the radio. I’d also like to see a return to the producers you mentioned.

  64. Simon Curtiss says:

    For me Burning the Heather is a wonderful song, among their best in recent years. Other than that it’s the weakest of SP Trilogy of which Super is the best. I like the well written lyric songs the best and Sad Robot World, The Dictator Decides,The Pop Kids, and Twentysomething are all in that group.

  65. Matthew says:

    Dunno if I’m the only one but Monkey Business reminds me of one of their B-sides, Party Song. Which is of course nice.

  66. Stevie Nicholl says:

    ‘Ultimate’ is already a PSB title for one of their ‘Best of’ albums :)

  67. John says:

    For me, Will-o-the-whisp is the perfect opener and standout track. Maybe not the most subtle but it slams along at a frenetic pace and sometimes all you want is a banging dance track to infect your mind. This certainly does that. The repetitive “will-o-the-wisp” gets in there and doesn’t let up. The break “but maybe you’ve gone respectable, with a wife and job and all that. Working for the local government and living in a rented flat” is genius and so much the classic Pet Shop Boys we’ve loved for so long. Brilliant Neil and Chris. Love it!!

  68. Andrew B says:

    Great article Paul.

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