Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr The Pet Shop Boys have stood the test of time surprisingly well, a feat all the more impressive given how rarely they have needed to stray from formula. Even the contemporary update of their previous album, 2013’s Electric, succeeded in part because Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s epically scaled synth-pop and sardonically political lyrics give them an evergreen foundation with which to experiment with newer forms. Yet Super is almost defiantly retro, perhaps more so than even their earliest LPs. It is an album of original tracks that could easily pass for a covers album. “Happiness” kicks off the album with a basic click track gradually joined by old-school house hi-hats as Tennant’s chopped and screwed vocals float in the ether around it. The chorus comprises about 90% of the entire lyric, the kind of affirming optimism that you can find on any house classic, and it sounds like an unearthed gem from 1988. “The Pop Kids” crosses “Blue Monday”-esque synthesized Gregorian chant with a Italo disco bass line as Tennant waxes nostalgic for those who came of age in the rave years. “Groovy” harks back even further to pure disco, albeit filtered through the bright, brittle keyboard fills that are trademark Pet Shop Boys. Tennant and Price have never strayed too far from the dance floor, but the opening salvo of tracks feels like their most purely enjoyable, uninhibited record. Gradually, the band’s more political side seeps through, yet even this is filtered through nostalgic programming. “The Dictator Decides” unfurls with industrial percussion and Kraftwerk-esque synth lines as Tennant sings from the perspective of a fascist who has grown weary of projecting an image of totalitarianism. “I’m too weak to be strong,” he confides. Ironically begging sympathy for the devil, the track digs into the insecurity of the brutal, even a secret desire to be toppled. As Tennant’s leader sings, “The joke is I’m not even a demagogue/ Have you heard me giving a speech?/ My facts are invented/ I sound quite demented/ So deluded it beggars belief.” “Sad Robot World,” meanwhile, slows down for a late-night slow jam that limns in appropriately dispassionate voice an era of instant technological satisfaction, where “There’s no sleep, no food, no pain” and life is all the more dull for it. For the most part, however, it’s all about the party, and it’s remarkable how enjoyable the LP is given how completely out of step with relevance it sounds. “Inner Sanctum” is a Basic Channel-esque dub techno workout-cum-deep house catharsis, while “Pazzo!” is straight electro. “Burn” actually has the audacity, in 2016, to build up to a chorus of “We’re gonna burn this disco down before the morning comes” as classic, mountain-scaling PSB synth chords launch into the stratosphere. It’s a pure Hi-NRG track, maybe the most retro song on the album. But if Super only occasionally indulges in the duo’s more serious, forward-thinking side, there’s an exceptional amount of intelligence to its surface pleasures. Not many dance acts past their 30th anniversary could still believably concoct a track like “Undertow,” with its floor-filling rhythm and its shamelessly young-spirited romance. If this is the Pet Shop Boys gone nostalgic, it’s a testament to how great they are even when phoning it in.