This is a typical Pet Shop Boys album. At least in the sense that it has Neil Tennant's funny and thoughtful lyrics and the duo's brilliant sense of melody. But this time, the boys did not want to make a dance album. The result is "Release", a melancholic and slow tempo album, where the songs themselves take on a more important role. I vaguely remember that PSB made a promise some years ago that they never would make a rock album. This is the closest they have come to break that promise so far. But they stay on the right side of the line, even though some tracks even have guitar solos.
All the tracks except two have Johnny Marr's famous guitars on them, and they sure make a nice addition to the overall sound. According to Chris Lowe, the drums are still electronic, but they have mostly used acoustic drum samples to build the rhythms.
Let us talk a bit about some of the tracks. The first single "Home and Dry" is a surprisingly bleak effort I think, and eerily reminiscent of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" on the first couple of listens. It grows a little bit on repeated listening, but doesn't come close to classic singles such as "Being Boring" or "It's a Sin". "Birthday Boy" is an epic ballad loaded with drama, complete with guitar solo and tambourines. "London", another of the boys songs about …well… London, has got an electronic groove underneath lush strings and surprising synthstabs. "The Samurai in Autumn" is an uptempo and blippy affair with no guitars at all, but instead sports rather weird lyrics: "It's not as easy as it was / Or as easy as it should be / for the Samurai in autumn". Over and over again.
Both "Very" and "Actually" are miles ahead of "Release", but it still contains good pop songs with mostly witty and interesting lyrics. It is also nice to see that the duo is taking risks, doing something different. They have showed some signs of repeating themselves a bit too much before, and I like that they have managed to get out of it.
The artwork is nice too, even though Mark Farrow is not involved this time. Another drastic change.