November 15, 1993 12:00 PM

The Pet Shop Boys

Since 1985, Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant have been the most commercially viable and the most potentially subversive standard-bearers for the gay subculture and aesthetic. Their fifth album may well be their most overt and politicized release to date. Musically, Very covers much of the familiar ground that the British duo have made their own since the late ’80s: synth pop tarted up with a sniff of intellectualism and a dash of orchestral campiness.

“Can You Forgive Her?” sets the album’s tone. With his clipped “pass the Grey Poupon” elocution, Tennant talks/sings his way through a mid-tempo dance track about a man torn between his female lover and his closeted desire for a man. Though reasons for the breakup are never broadcast, the listener is in classic PSB territory. Once again, the boys dispense delicious fluff with a steely bite. Their love songs are romantic yet weary with an AIDS-era melancholia that transforms the ridiculous (a cover of the Village People’s “Go West,” replete with he-man choruses) into the seductively sublime. (SBK/ERG)

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