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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Pop Making Sense
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2012-09-26

This article shared 3203 times since Wed Sep 26, 2012
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On Elysium, the latest by Pet Shop Boys, the duo hints that this might be a farewell album. The pair insists this is not a swan song, although the theme is prevalent throughout as heard on "Leaving," "Breathing Space" and "Memory of the Future."

Many are comparing the well-polished Elysium to 1990's beloved Behaviour. I am finding similarities to 1996's Bilingual. "Egomusic," which just begs for a video, has a pulsating rhythm and spoken word that recall the overlooked "Electricity." Then "Winner" reminds me of "Se la Vida E" because both of these cliché-driven pop cuts have big choruses and seem like a stab at chart success or, at least, a licensing opportunity.

It is absolutely catty that "Your Early Stuff" precedes the bouncy, throwback standout "A Face Like That." Lyrically, the former recalls "Yesterday When I Was Mad," as it is inspired by people thoughtlessly telling the electronic pioneers that they are fond of their older material and the latter revisits those glory days musically. "Everything Means Something" is theatrical and over-the top, and "Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin" is a keenly observant title. Some of the slower numbers like "Invisible," "Hold On" and "Give It a Go" do not measure to the previous efforts when Pet Shops Boys opted off the dance floor, like "Jealousy" and "To Speak Is a Sin."

Recorded in L.A. earlier this year, Elysium is co-produced by Andrew Dawson, who worked with hip-hop and R&B heavyweights Kanye West, Jay-Z and Beyonce. Don't let Dawson's resume fool you; Elysium is quintessential Pet Shop Boys by being witty, sophisticated and sometimes spry.

New Wave favorites Blondie with Devo are touring together on the "Whip It to Shreds Tour." Expect Blondie to pay tribute to fellow New Yorkers the Beastie Boys by creating a mash-up of the chart-topper "Rapture" with "No Sleep til Brooklyn." Here's an "Atomic" spoiler: Blondie also is rumored to be covering Frankie Goes to Hollywood's smash "Relax" and Ellie Goulding's "Lights." Devo's new one-off track "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed)" refers to Mitt Romney going on a family vacation with his dog in a crate attached to the car's roof for a 12-hour road trip. The tour will be at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., on Wed., Sept. 26.

Bananarama is making a rare stateside trek this fall to celebrate its 30th anniversary. In conjunction with this milestone, 30 Years of Bananarama was released overseas. Here, songs from the act's days with producers Stock Aitken Waterman, like "Venus" and "I Heard a Rumor," are joined by more recent gems such as "Look on the Floor" and "Love Comes" plus my picks "Really Saying Something" and "Only Your Love." The set also includes a DVD of 35 videos, loaded with lots of camp classics like "Shy Boy," "Love in the First Degree" and "I Can't Help It." The well-aged group has been operating as a twosome since 1993's Please Yourself. Bananarama's last studio album was 2009's Viva, which features covers of iiO's "Rapture" and Three Degrees' "The Runner." The British girl group's tour comes to Hard Rock Cafe, 63 W. Ontario St., on Tuesday, Oct. 9. All proceeds will benefit breast-cancer charities.

Hunter Valentine won me over with the stinging rock songs "Stalker" and "Revenge." Now living in Brooklyn, the Toronto natives return with Collide & Conquer, which is due Oct. 23 on Megaforce. Fronted by the charismatic Kiyomi McCloskey, Hunter Valentine appeared on season three of Showtime's The Real L Word. The lead single "Liar Liar" has the perfect blend of a hook, a riff and grit. Expect Hunter Valentine to rock the house at Stage Bar, 4358 N. Cicero Ave., on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

In support of its latest, Supernova, Girlyman comes to City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph St., on Sunday, Sept. 30. Chastity Brown is also on the bill. The queer outfit is in fine form on Supernova, with its dreamy folk music and remarkable harmonies. "Break Me Slow" and the hush title track show influence from Indigo Girls. Both bands have toured together, so it is no surprise that Emily Saliers guests on "Empire of Our State." "Michelangelo" offers a pop leaning and "No Matter What I Do" could be from Randy Newman's vaults. Supernova is out now.

Tired of the same starlets saturating the music scene? Check out Kate Miller-Heidke. The classically trained singer-songwriter has landed three top-20 albums Down Under and her latest, Nightflight, is out now stateside. Songs like "Ride This Feeling" and "Sarah" draw comparisons to Sarah McLachlan. The wonderful pop ditty "Let Me Fade" easily could fit on radio alongside Kelly Clarkson or Taylor Swift. On "Humiliation" and "In the Dark," the siren subtly shows off her operatic range, but in a far more relatable manner than Sarah Brightman ever could. Miller-Heidke is opening for the Ben Folds Five reunion tour with a show on Sunday, Sept. 30, at The Chicago Theatre.

Cake Chicago has its six-year anniversary show at Red Line Tap, 7006 N. Glenwood Ave., on Saturday, Oct. 6. This LGBTQ showcase will feature Ripley Caine + the Full Moon, folktronica artist Ian Wilson and PJ Harvey-tribute band Rm:509. Find Cake Chicago on Facebook for more information.


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