Album Review: Pet Shop Boys – “Release”

Pet Shop Boys released their 12th album on April 1, 2002. In the United States, there were two versions of the album released: the regular album and a 2-CD pressing that included a bonus CD. This review is for the 2-CD pressing that was released in the United States.

Sonically, the music on Release sounds more laid back, and the guitars are a bit higher in the mix than one would normally to expect on a Pet Shop Boys album. Johnny Marr from The Smiths plays guitar on most of the tracks on the album.

“I Get Along” definitely has a 1970s Elton John feel to it. While it may not sound much like a “typical” Pet Shop Boys song, this is still one of my favorite songs on the album.

I also enjoyed the other two singles from the album: “Home And Dry” and “London.” “Home And Dry” really captures the feeling of missing someone that you’re in love with, and the anticipation leading up to seeing that person again. “London” is actually a “story song,” where the lyrics tell a story. The lyrics, combined with the music, make this song a compelling listen.

“The Night I Fell in Love” tells the story of a boy meeting up with a performer backstage and the two end up having an “intimate encouter”; there are lines in the song that make it very clear that the performer in question is none other than bad boy rapper Eminem (“Then he joked ‘Hey, man! Your name isn’t Stan, is it? We should be together!” and “Over breakfast made jokes about Dre and his homies and folks”).

This version of Release came with a bonus disc, which is an enhanced disc. When you put the disc into your computer, you go through an opening that shows the four different covers for the limited edition version of the album, and then you go to a rather simple menu. The menu choices are: “Watch” (which allows you to watch the “Home And Dry” video), “Listen” (listen to the audio tracks on the disc), and “Exit.”

The first audio track is “Home And Dry [Ambient Mix],” which is a slower, more synthesizer-based version of the song; this mix gives the song a different texture and opens it up to a new interpretation.

“Sexy Northerner” is upbeat and more synthesizer-based, although there is some guitar in it; lyrically, the song is much more “fun” than much of the material on the Release album.

“Always” is a slower, synthesizer-based song about someone who can’t take criticism, makes a lot of mistakes, and is unwilling to stand up for themselves; this song is a little on the long side, though, and probably would have been better if it was shorter.

“Closer To Heaven [Slow Version]” is a slowed down, more stripped back version of this song, which originally appeared on the Nightlife album. However, this version takes much too long to get started; if this track was a couple of minutes shorter, it probably would have been stronger.

“Nightlife” is an upbeat “disco sounding” song, which is about enjoying the night life; there are times in the song when Neil Tennant sings in a falsetto.

“Friendly Fire” is made up of piano, strings, and some synthesizer; it’s a song about dealing with fame and falling out of public favor and coming under “friendly fire” in the media.

“Break 4 Love [US Radio Edit]” is an upbeat dance track that Neil Tennant recorded with producer Peter Rauhofer; the song is about being in love with someone and promising to always be there with them.

The disc closes with “Home And Dry [Blank & Jones Mix],” which is a much more upbeat mix of the song designed to make it more “club friendly”; the mix takes about two minutes to get going, but it’s not too bad of a remix.

This limited edition version of Release should be in the collection of a Pet Shop Boys fan. However, for those listeners who tend to prefer the Pet Shop Boys’ more upbeat dance material, then this album may not be for them.

I wrote this review after listening to a copy of the US 2-CD pressing of Release that my husband and I purchased.

(written by Lesley Aeschliman on January 21, 2003)


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