Recording information: Sarm West Studios, London, England (2006).
The cover of 2006's FUNDAMENTAL, the Pet Shop Boys' first studio outing since '02's RELEASE (not counting their BATTLESHIP POMTEMKIN project), is strikingly stark--seemingly solid black save for the band name and album title--though a closer look reveals the subtle images of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe's faces. Any suggestions of anonymity or reinvention, however, are quickly jettisoned by the songs, which are very obviously the work of the British duo. Tennant's distinctively plaintive vocals and Lowe's soaring synth lines here recall their prototypical sound more than almost anything since the late 1980s. This is, at least in part, due to the group's reunion with dance-pop uber-producer Trevor Horn, who gives each track on FUNDAMENTAL a lustrous sheen, whether it's the surging club-ready tune "Minimal," the willfully melodramatic ballad "Numb," or the funky and fiercely political "I'm with Stupid" (a harsh criticism of Tony Blair and George W. Bush). A record that hints at past Pet Shop glories while remaining remarkably contemporary, FUNDMENTAL is synth-pop at its most irresistible.
What the critics say…
Spin (p.83) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "FUNDAMENTAL uses squelchy electro-disco grooves that smuggle sly pop-culture commentary."
Entertainment Weekly (p.161) - "[The] CD finds the synth-pop pioneers still in fine form….[With] immaculate arrangements, which balance orchestral pomp with au courant club grooves." -- Grade: B+
Q (p.118) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]heir ninth album balances social comment you can dance to, dramatically melancholy ballads and Tennant's always sanguine musings on the pros and cons of hedonism."
Q (p.123) - Ranked #23 in Q Magazine's "100 Greatest Albums of 2006" -- "Songwriting-wise they seemed to have rediscovered their sharpness."