Pet Shop Boys
x2 Recordings Ltd.
On this four-song EP, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, longtime purveyors of an alluringly aloof disco, lampoon boorish politicians, skewer social media and excoriate oligarchs. The duo’s synthesizer-driven dance music and literate lyrics combine to make protest songs that are satirical rather than sincere, which is good.
“Give Stupidity A Chance,” an over-the-top poke at contemporary politics, begins with tinkling keyboard. “Let’s talk man to man./Chicks are always up for it./You gotta grab whatever you can,” sings Tennant, whose bright tenor and crisp diction belie the boys-will-be-boys attitude.
“On Social Media,” with its insistent beat and electronic handclaps, critiques the narcissism routinely found on Facebook and Twitter. “It’s so nice when people like you,” Tennant sings with faux earnestness. “You’re feeling #blessed.”
“What Are We Going to Do About the Rich?” gleefully upbraids the super-rich while simultaneously having a catchy, sing-along chorus. That’s remarkable, given that it also refers to zero-hour contracts and Hansard (which publishes the British parliament’s proceedings).
The final song, “The Forgotten Child,” is different. Over a piano and a gentle Latin beat, Tennant sings a plaintive song about children caught up in governments’ political machinations. Apparently, these ironists also have hearts.
“What Chaos Is Imaginary”
The third release from Cleo Tucker (guitar, vocals) and Harmony Tividad (bass, vocals) is an enigmatic record that rewards repeated listens.
The pair nail indie-rock songs like “Hire,” where Tucker’s guitar has a satisfying crunch and drummer Ross Wallace Chait adds some rhythmic snap. It’s a pleasant surprise, then, to occasionally hear elements typically associated with dance music. On the title song, for example, programmed drum beats and strings nudge the tune in the direction of pop music.
The album’s 14 tracks are oblique and dreamy. It’s as if listeners are overhearing someone else’s reverie. On “Where You Sink,” Tividad’s ethereal voice is swathed in woozy guitar. “I wanna try to be a ribbon in a puzzle mind,” she sings.
That matches the record’s overall tone, which is loose and undefined, a fluidity reinforced by recurrent water imagery like lakes, puddles and rain. In “Lucky Joke,” a crisp rock number, Tividad sings, “Down by the water/I watched you try to fit inside of something else.”
There’s also the duo’s embrace of chaos. On “Roses,” the album’s closer, Tucker makes it explicit: “Create the vague you need and get married in the seams.”
Perhaps that’s their real subject: possibility.
“Hot Rod to Hell”
This album is an artifact from a bygone era: Garrett, who appeared in gay-porn films like Joe Gage’s “Heatstroke,” originally issued it as a self-released cassette in 1982.
Comprised of 48 brief vignettes about Manhattan’s gay scene in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the record contains more speaking than singing. Garrett’s matter-of-fact delivery is sometimes accompanied by synthesizer sound effects and even some disco, courtesy of producer Man Parrish.
Listeners expecting a celebration of post-Stonewall hedonism will be disappointed. Despite frequent references to gay cruising grounds like the Piers and the Mineshaft, Garrett’s poems address the emotional toll of sex work and promiscuity. “I never thought this hustling trip would fuck up my head,” he says at one point. He’s also blunt about the risks: Gay-bashing and murder are constant concerns.
Dark Entries, a San Francisco label dedicated to underground electronic music, released this on Valentine’s Day. It’s a unique document of a time when porn and performance art mixed. The LP version comes with a 44-page booklet featuring nudes of Garrett along with his poetry.
All proceeds will go to Housing Works, a New York City charity focused on AIDS and homelessness.