Pet Shop Boys (EMI 94310)
On the radio, what has made the Pet Shop Boys stand out is its sense of contrast -- for instance, the way Neil Tennant's hushed tenor floats over the brusque, mechanical beats of Chris Lowe's synthesizers. With "Behavior," however, the duo pushes beyond simple contrast and into a host of interesting gray areas. Sure, the old formula works fine (for proof, just crank up "So Hard"), but the best stuff here is far more ambitious, probing deep into the ambiguities of pop ecstasy. Which is why, from the itchy anxiety beneath "The End of the World" to the low-key unease of "Being Boring," this is by far the group's best yet.
AIN'T NO SHAME IN MY GAME
Candyman (Epic 46947)
What gets forgotten in the fuss over controversial rap acts like 2 Live Crew or the Geto Boys is that the vast majority of rap records are strictly on the pop tip, more interested in funky beats and hummable hooks than anything else. That's certainly the case with Candyman's "Ain't No Shame in My Game." Listen to "Knockin'Boots," his current single, and it's obvious that this crew has a taste for sweet melodies, both in the way the chorus quotes Rose Royce's "Ooh Boy" and in the strikingly melodic cadences of the C-man's rap. But the album isn't entirely sugar-coated -- there's plenty of bite as well, from the nasty funk of "Don't Leave Home Without It" to the breathless rhymes of "The Mack Is Back."