A founding member of The Buggles, Horn is responsible for the ‘80s smash and MTV catalyst, “Video Killed the Radio Star,” as well as being a founding member of Art of Noise. He also enjoyed a stint, albeit brief, as the lead singer for the band Yes on 1980’s Drama. Horn has since gone on to produce the likes of Tom Jones, Tina Turner, LeAnn Rimes, and Belle and Sebastian, to name a few, but is most known for his work with Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the ‘80s, and his on-again, off-again relationship with Seal throughout the 1990s.
With Fundamental, the marriage
of Horn’s trademark orchestrals to Lowe’s usual disco delights
is the perfect blend of producer-artist commerce, with either
side taking center stage. It doesn’t sound overtly Trevor Horn,
yet there is something setting it apart from the last few Pet
Shop Boys releases, something ultimately different, yet very
familiar. It runs the usual Pet Shop Boys gamut from traditional
four-on-the-floor club tracks to sweeping, lovelorn ballads to
biting (this time political) anthems.
“Psychological”, the album’s opening track, is a sweet little electro ditty, dark in its lyrical content and, in a word, paranoid. Not your usual Pet Shop fare, and certainly not indicative of the rest of the album, but a stellar opener nonetheless. The next track, however, “The Sodom and Gomorrah Show”, is a trademark PSB anthem about sense of belonging with the usual strings and lush synth chords you’ve come to expect, and a Xanadu feel throughout that would have any good E.L.O. fan questioning his whereabouts. From there, the album unfolds much like a typical Pet Shop Boys release. Overall, I would say it is better than recent efforts, Nightlife and Release, with one exception - the singles. “I’m With Stupid”, the album’s first major single, is a riff on Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair’s relationship with George W. Bush. While it is certainly the most Trevor Horn of all the tracks (second only to the 1:30 “God Willing”), it relies too heavily on its political content. It falls short as a single, certainly radio-friendly, but mediocre at best. Even more lackluster and predictable is the album’s second single, “Minimal.” Its reliance on an all-to-used vocoded chorus spelling out the word M-I-N-I-M-A-L and bad Ibiza-style synth line throughout are more than enough to overshadow what few good elements lie underneath. The right remix(er), however, could make all the difference. Compared to “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” from Nightlife or “Home and Dry” from Release, the singles from Fundamental, so far, leave something to be desired.
Having said that, there are plenty of wonderful “deep” cuts on this album to keep the fans coming back for more.
The painfully applicable “I Made My Excuses and Left” is a brilliant account of running into one’s ex, while Chris’s bounce and Neil’s brains on “Twentieth Century” are more than enough to make up for a couple of lacking singles.