Top critical review
Pet Shop Boys, irrelevant
on 3 October 2016
The cooperation between Xenomania and Pet Shop Boys resulted in this very dull affair: "Yes". At par with its predecessor album - the unapologetically catastrophic "Fundamental " (2006), Yes ranks alongside the Trevor Horn-produced album as an overdone and musically poor record. Pet Shop Boys will have therefore managed to release the two worst albums of their career in a three-year span, a shame when one thinks about the glory of productions such as "Release" (2002) or "Battleship Potemkin" (2004), at that point the most satisfactory recent efforts from the Boys.
So what is wrong with "Yes"?
To be honest, first and foremost: its sound. I thought that the bittersweet experience with Trevor Horn on "Fundamental" would lead the boys away from an album produced by one team only but similar problems produce the same results: a completely homogenous album sonically, homogenous to the point of dullness.
The main problem for me is a hardcore instrumentation that was designed for Girls Aloud with musically very thin material from the Pet Shop Boys, confirming the creative crisis faced by the band since 2005. What is quite frustrating is the fact that with "Yes" the Boys fall again in the pitfall of bigger and louder for the sake of bigger and louder - that was the problem of Fundamental.
The album is divided in three different types of songs:
The first ones are block narratives, where Neil Tennant develops a story (most of the time not very interesting) and sticks some music to it (usually not very inspiring): this is the case with "King of Rome", "Building a wall" (the poor man's "Integral"), and "The way it used to be". The best one of these was the great "Gin and Jag", but for some reason it is the B-side of "Love etc" instead of being an album track of its own. Among this lot one has to include "Legacy", the final track on the album - but "Legacy" is a success. It is one of those "built-up" songs where the instrumentation develops until a beautifully-arranged climax. Stylistically it is not far from "One thing leads to another", the masterpiece from Pet Shop Boys's "Relentless". It could have been a triumph had it not been from a ridiculous an embarrasing circus music interlude in French. A very good track then but not that original. At least the album ends on a high.
After that the second types of tracks we have are the more or less successful pop tunes, such as "More than a dream", so predictable that it felt like a Girls Aloud track, "Beautiful People", a song with a good intro and a good conclusion but musically quite poor, and thankfully two very good songs, "Vulnerable", a well-crafted and well-structured song, and "All over the world", sort of tree hugging song with a very basic, minimal idea saved by a great instrumentation and a great guitar intro by Johnny Marr.
We are left with the three masterpieces of this album, phenomenal five-star tracks that would have deserved better company: "Love etc", a timeless PSB song alongside "Always on my mind", "Being Boring", Go West" or "New York City Boy" - we described it at length in our review of the single; "Did you see me coming", disarmingly simple pop song, uptempo and "feelgood"; and the glorious "Pandemonium", starting with an amazing chord change on the choir and not looking back after that. These three tracks are a great addition to the canon but they do not save another nondescript album three years after "Fundamental", making us doubt that the Boys are still relevant in the world of 2009 pop music.
A depressing listening experience overall.