Although Hotspot is the last in a trilogy of Stuart Price-produced Pet Shop Boys albums, Neil Tennant – known as the chatty half of the duo – observes: “The other two [2013’s Electric and 2016’s Super] were very hyperdigital dance-pop, really, whereas this one has just turned into something else. And I think it’s because we decided to bring Stuart over to Berlin to work in Hansa Studios, and we used a lot of the old gear.“
Of Wedding In Berlin – the banging closer on PSB’s upcoming set – Tennant divulges, “We didn’t really mean to put it on the album, but Stuart Price got all the demos and he said, ‘Oh, I love this, this is really a brilliant track,’ and it’s sort of meant to be like having a wedding in Berghain; we got the Mendelssohn Wedding March that goes into techno.
“An artist friend of ours was having a wedding in Berlin and we couldn’t go, so for his wedding present we wrote a song… and we mixed it, mastered it and then had one acetate made of it and we gave it to him and his wife. I have some friends who went to the wedding and they played it, like, four times, everyone chanting, ‘We’re getting married.’
“It makes a nice end to the album,“ Tennant comments. “Shakespeare apparently said, ‘A comedy ends with a wedding’. [Throughout] the whole album there’s a lot of lyrics about relationships and there’s an overall sense of longing that’s sort of released into the wedding at the end. And also there’s a little pun in the title because, you know, there’s a district in Berlin called Wedding [pronounced “vedding”], which is the same spelling,“ he laughs. “It’s just sort of funny.“
There are numerous other Berlin-related geographical references within Hotspot‘s lyrics and Tennant reveals, “The first track, which is called Will-o-the-Wisp – it’s about being on the underground, U-Bahn in Berlin. We actually recorded an entire U-Bahn journey and I quite like the way it’s literally like you’re moving through Berlin; it’s got this sort of atmosphere.“ And the album’s “ballad-y second track“, You Are The One, is about “getting a taxi down to Zehlendorf, sunbathing and swimming in the lake and then catching the tube back,“ Tennant explains. “Berlin on a Sunday afternoon in the summer is really amazing.“
David Bowie also reminisced about specific U-Bahn stations within Where Are We Now?‘s lyrical content – a “great song“, Tennant enthuses. “Chris [Lowe, the other Pet Shop Boy] and I went to Berlin for the first time in 1987, which was quite exciting,“ Tennant recalls. “We were flown over by EMI to see David Bowie play in front of the Reichstag… in front of the Berlin Wall, really. He sang Heroes and I thought, ‘Oh, God, this is gonna be really amazing, he’s gonna sing, ‘I can remember/ Standing, by the wall…’ – he sang it and there wasn’t a murmur from the crowd; there was no reaction whatsoever!“ he laughs, somewhat baffled, “and I think probably Bowie was surprised, too. It was very odd.“
When asked whether his raps could be interpreted as inner monologues, Tennant allows, “Well that’s very interesting, ’cause that’s exactly how I see it… The third track on the album, Happy People – that’s like a guy’s inner monologue about having to leave his child behind and go off to work – ‘I see you on the staircase taking two steps at a time,’ whatever I say – and it’s about the contrast between a happy life at home – or a personal life – and then the kind of nightmare of the outside world, as it sometimes feels.“
Thanks to Tennant’s excellent diction, his storytelling always immediately sparks the imagination. “There’s been a tendency for many years in pop music where the point of a song is to display what a brilliant singer you are and you just kinda mangle it,“ Tennant laments, “whereas I’ve always thought that singing and lyrics should be a conversation, just like we’re talking now. And John Lennon used to think that, you know, Strawberry Fields Forever is like a conversation, and that’s always been important to me.“
Hotspot by Pet Shop Boys is out January 24 via x2 Recordings.
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