Pet Shop Boys has matured more easily than a lot of groups of its longevity (a quarter-century and counting). Ever since 1993’s Very, Neil Tennant’s lyrics have become more overtly vulnerable, and while that’s a natural progression from the archer albums that made the duo’s name, they’ve continued to keep abreast of current dance-pop conventions—see last year’s “I’m In Love With A German Film Star,” which they produced for British artist Sam Taylor-Wood for the hip Kompakt label.
It’s also true that they haven’t been nearly as inspired as they used to be over the past decade or so, and while Yes, their 10th album, is as expertly crafted as ever, it also feels slight. There’s a magisterial sweep to some of the album’s songs: “All Over The World,” “Beautiful People,” and “More Than A Dream” come with big sing-along melodies, glossy strings, and affirmative lyrics. “Love Etc.,” Yes’s opener, sets the tone with a fairly blasé theme: You need love to get by, although Tennant is still careful to note “You don’t have to be beautiful, but it helps.” The album ends with “Legacy,” a deliberate reckoning with the group’s own glorious past. On the surface, this big-sounding album belongs with them, but the songs don’t stand up to scrutiny in the same way.