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."
HINDU LOVE GODS
Hindu Love Gods (Giant 24406)
Four years ago, when reports filtered out of Athens, Ga., that Warren Zevon was rehearsing with Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry of R.E.M., the immediate assumption in the rock press was that it was a supergroup-in-the-making. It wasn't; if anything, the quartet -- now calling itself Hindu Love Gods -- is a sort of busman's holiday, a chance for these four to make some noise without the pressure of making hits. And a joyful noise it is, as "Hindu Love Gods" demonstrates. Built mainly around blues tunes (although they do slip in NRBQ's "Battleship Chains" and a raucous reading of Prince's "Raspberry Beret"), the album balances the offhand enthusiasm of an after-hours jam session with the focused intensity of a chart-bound album.
THE GREATEST HITS SO FAR
Public Image Ltd. (Virgin 91581)
Given Public Image Ltd.'s reputation on this side of the Atlantic, it's hard to imagine the group calling any collection "The Greatest Hits So Far" without ironic intent. Johnny Rotten making the pop charts? You gotta be kidding! Yet not only did most of these make the British pop charts ("This Is Not a Love Song" even went top five in '83), they hold up surprisingly well, from the dark and droning "Public Image" to the brutally infectious "Seattle." Then again, maybe Rotten is mellowing; after all, P.I.L. does close the album with an earnestly pro-environment number called "Don't Ask Me."