Neil Tennant, singer of the British pop band "Pet Shop Boys" performs on stage during a concert at Palacio de Vista Alegre on July 8, 2009 in Madrid, Spain Source: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Pet Shop Boys Say Their New Release is Their 'Queer Album'

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Popular synth-pop duo The Pet Shop Boys – Neil Tennant, who came out as gay in 1994, and Chris Lowe – say that their new offering, titled "Nonetheless," is their "queer album."

Interviewed by NME, the duo discussed the new album – their 15th – with Tennant indicating to the publication that he "feels it's subconsciously imbued with a gay sensibility."

Tennant made no bones about this, declaring, "I think this is our queer album." (Lowe jokingly exclaimed: "Really?! I'm taking my copy back...")

To illustrate his point, Tennant cited the album's "dramatic closing track 'Love Is The Law,'" NME relayed, "which details Oscar Wilde's post-prison stay in Nice, France, watching cruising on the Promenade de Anglais."

"So the language I'm trying to use is of sexual transactions – 'trade', 'trick' – American slang for picking someone up," Tennant clarified.

That's not the only rainbow-hued track on the album.

"The sumptuous, '60s French-pop-sounding 'A New Bohemia' evolved out of a demo Lowe titled 'Avant Garde,'" NME detailed, "and partially took its cue from an exhibition Tennant had viewed about the 1970s queer conceptual art troupe Les Petitis Bon-Bons, who were affiliated with Lou Reed and 'You Make Me Feel (Mighty Reel)' trailblazer Sylvester."

"Furthermore," NME's writeup went on to add, "the video to lead single, the punchy 'Loneliness', features a glory-hole, while the shimmering disco of 'Dancing Star' chronicles gay ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev's defection from Russia to the West during the Cold War."

Gay enough for you? Hold on: There's more.

NME also cited a track called "'New London Boy', a coming-of-age vignette that.... details the Bowie-loving crimson-haired Tennant's arrival into the capital in 1973 sharing a flat with 'all kinds of glam-rock 18-year-olds with dyed hair and Oxford bag trousers,' dipping a tentative platform-heeled toe into Soho's gay nightspot Chaguaramas."

Tennant said the track is "about learning your sexuality and I wanted to become a pop star so the line: 'Will I go all the way?' is a double-entendre."

A more singular entendre, though, also appears in the song when Tennant delivers a rap in which he declares, "Skinheads will mock you / Call you a fag / Last laugh is yours / There's a brick in your bag," NME reported, adding that the lines "referenc[e] both the abuse hurled at him by far-right thugs, and a drag queen in his home city of Newcastle who concealed a brick in her handbag for self-defense."

Tennant commented on the mixed messages that mainstream culture sends out regarding queer-sourced art. The public, he said, "still think a little bit" in terms of gay artists being relegated to their own artistic arena; as example, he mentioned Troye Sivan, of whom he maintained, "people say 'he's not famous, he's gay-famous.'"

On the other hand, Tennant noted, drag has become a phenomenon across demographics. "Several years ago, I went to see Jake Shears in 'Kinky Boots' on Broadway," the singer related. "It was an essentially straight audience, and when the drag queens came on, they all went ballistic. I thought: 'Wow, this whole thing's just gone totally mainstream' – and I think it's 'cause of 'RuPaul's Drag Race.'"

It might have taken 43 years for the Pet Shop Boys to make a definitively "queer" album, but their older music holds a queer sway all the same, with two of their earlier tracks appearing, NME noted, in recent queer-themed films. NME cited "'Saltburn,' where a karaoke version of 'Rent', sung by Barry Keoghan, is used to emphasis class difference, and 'All of Us Strangers,' where audiences were liquidized by tears by the use of their euphoric 1987 Christmas Number One 'Always On My Mind'..."

Tennant expressed enthusiasm for the songs' inclusions. "What I love is that in each of those different films, our songs are used as plot points," he told the magazine.

Will you be spinning "Nonetheless" when it drops on April 26?

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Read These Next