The Pet Shop Boys, who love one-word album titles, call their latest release Very (EMI/ERG), and damned if it isn’t—very understated musically, with happy and sad love songs dryly set to the same propulsive beat. It’s also very deeply felt. The particularly gorgeous ”To Speak Is a Sin,” for instance, shows us men in a gay bar, eyeing each other but not saying a word, surrounded by a halo of longing and compassion sumptuously evoked by the music. And the even more lovely ”Dreaming of the Queen,” while exploring a peculiar British preoccupation, subtly suggests that the royal family’s scandals don’t amount to much, compared with the wholesale death of lovers from AIDS.
And at the end comes the strangest track of all, a cover of the Village People’s ”Go West,” originally a vision of San Francisco as a gay men’s paradise, but now embellished with a male chorus so absurdly robust, it might as well come from some long-dead operetta. That paradise, the nostalgic sound of the chorus seems to say, was only a romantic illusion—an illusion the Pet Shop Boys examine with an aching purity that transcends sorrow or regret. A-