Hot on the heels of my first ever Christina Aguilera album, this month I’ve also been sampling the delights of the first ever Pet Shop Boys album I’ve ever listened to. They seem to be descending into a (well-respected) niche in this country, with the fanbase supporting their recent album releases, and a brief flurry of interested when they got their Lifetime Achievement BRIT Award a few years back and launched a 2-disc greatest hits collection.
I’m fairly well-versed on their hits, particularly during their more popular spells during the 90s. I remember older hits like “It’s a sin” from primary school, when I didn’t even really listen to music. The 90s and hits like “Go West” and “Se a vida e” are vivid memories, while later singles like “I don’t know what you want but I can’t give it anymore” are still popular on my iPod. Even 00s singles like “Flamboyant”, “Minimal” and “Miracles” are much-loved. But for some reason I’ve never explored them that much.
So now it’s time to start that, in perhaps the worst way possible, by trying out their most recent album. What really piqued my interest was the producer, a certain Stuart Price who has engineered some of my all-time favourite songs, like Kylie’s “All the lovers” and Madonna’s “Confessions on a Dance Floor” album. His work with other acts is usually reliable, so it’s a exciting prospect to have him on board with this. Anyway, enough chatting, here we go.
Note – I’ve just realised the tracklist on my iPod is not the same as the real tracklist at all! Whoops.
08 Thursday – This feels like a bit of retro PSB action. Maybe it’s that opening synth and the spoken-word bit, reminds me of things like “West End Girls”. Of course Neil has a distinctive voice anyway so it’s no surprise! Thought this would be an obvious single but apparently not. The lyrics might be a bit run-of-the-mill, looking forward to the weekend (and probably getting laid), but it’s an easy introduction. Example’s cameo feels a bit superfluous but I like him, I just feel they didn’t use him very much.
08 Shouting in the evening – Love that synthy trance intro, but immediately it’s into pretty hard dance territory. It’s a spiky and claustrophobic little riff, but it really gets in your head like a blind panic. Is it suppose to be about going to a rave or something? That jarring little sample makes me think more of someone losing their mind and shouting to nobody in particular like a nut-case. Is it sad that I’d relate to that more than going out an partying? Red flag!! It’s a bit nasty but oddly addictive.
10 Love is a bourgeois construct – What a title, I thought this would be super pretentious, but it’s got the tune to back it up. LOVE this. I thought that sample was from old classical music, but it’s apparently Michael Nyman (him off the “The Piano” soundtrack). Either way, it’s wizzed up to great effect, I thought it had a bit of a Soviet ring to it. I can definitely feel Stuart Price in this one. Lyrics are playfully typical of the PSB, talking about these humdrum activities and how they really don’t care that they’ve been dumped, love is an illusion. Or at least until their love comes back and they’ll quickly U-turn. If anything’s going to be a hit off this album, this will be it. Amazing.
07 The last to die – After that rush of a track, this one lacks the depth of its predecessor. There are nice moments, like after the first minute where the beat disappears and gradually fades back in. I think it’s just the melody that I find a bit laclustre, but it’s nice enough. I didn’t get a good feel for what it was about though. Love that middle-eight!
06 Inside a dream – This is a bit of a 90s throwback isn’t it? I always have a soft spot for that sort of track, they’ve definitely not lost their roots but still managed to progress their sound at the same time, it feels very modern. Again I find the vocal melody a bit monotone and not especially memorable. Nothing wrong with it though, it’s just a bit of a filler to keep the energy going.
07 Fluorescent – I always wondered if this track was about someone in particular. Plenty of songs have been written about stars of the moment, and how the ones that burn brightest burn out quickly. It feels like they mean a certain someone, but who? A touch of bitterness and judgement in there, noting this person seems to do whatever they can to stay on top: scandals, relations with rich guys etc. Certainly a clear example of the PSB’s edge that hasn’t dulled, I’d hate to be the subject of this one!
08 Bolshy – Such an English word, I hardly ever hear it these days, and it’s hard to describe it without using more slang! Though am I getting it wrong here, is there a Russian connection here? There are garbled segments of what sounds like Russian speaking. I quite like it though, it’s another 90s throwback. I can’t think what the second-half reminds me of, lots of interesting percussion. Another edgy one though, sounds like Neil doesn’t like the subject much.
07 Axis – The lead single, feels like a bit of an odd choice, definitely needs a radio edit, the action doesn’t really get going for the first minute. Love the straightforward synths and insistent rhythm, so simple but I really like it. Not much to it vocally though, I think that’s why I couldn’t see it as a single. It’s alright though, goes on for a bit but no complaints. Having said that, I do quite like that last minute and a half.
07 Vocal – This is quite a nice little closing track, though another slightly odd choice for a single. That the album has barely twitched after “Axis” and “Vocal” were released is perhaps a sign that they weren’t great picks. The intro is quite nice, Neil’s chilling out with some nice music, and eventually the beat kicks in. But the beat is a bit repetitive and nothing special. It’s a decent enough commercial dance track but doesn’t do a lot for me.
Well there we go. I can’t say I loved every minute, but even the bits I wasn’t so keen on were perfectly listenable and fit nicely into the tracklist. A sleek 9-track, 49-minute album was perhaps just right for me. It was a nice album to have playing when I was on my bike at least, it’s all pretty good. Stuart Price might only have created one solid gold moment, but the album could easily have just not had one at all.
I am interested in listening to more of their music though, perhaps not as a priority, but the ice is broken now.
Keepers for the iPod: Thursday, Shouting in the evening, Love is a Bourgeois Construct, Bolshy