Wednesday, 11 March 2009


The campaign for Pet Shop Boys' new product is well underway and I can't wait. The Pet Shop Boys have a reputation as being top smart operators on the pop scene but if that were true, well, they wouldn't have produced the album Nightlife or single I get along.

What they are very good at is writing their own history; Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are so eloquent, so engaged in pop, that it is very easy for them to sell the latest version of themselves to journalists. (Has any other pop band annotated so many of their sleeves or collaborated on a couple of books?) It's perfectly acceptable to change your mind in life, but PSB are so doctrinal – try b-side How I learned to hate rock'n'roll; the same period produced another b-side, Disco potential – that they often leave themselves rewriting the past. (The debate over the use of guitars is something like the schism between Jean-Paul Sartre and his existentialist mates when Sartre supported Communism in the face of irrefutable evidence of Soviet penal camps. Sort of.)

They're pulling out all the stops for the release of Yes, their tenth studio album proper (though you might be tempted to throw in a couple of the Disco albums for good measure, namely Disco and Disco 3). There's been the Brits and the video for jaunty first single Love etc on YouTube as well as on the duo's official website, where there have been regular postings on release dates, formats, reviews, interviews and now a medley of the album. I even bought the Mail on Sunday to get a first hearing of another of the new album's tracks, Did you see me coming? (I suspect the band justify such a move not just in terms of reaching a large audience, but having slipped them a saucy, punny title.)

It's been a long time since I've been as excited by a new PSB single (lately its their b-sides that tend to kick loose); it reminds me of the anticipation I felt when Can you forgive her? was released. It would be quite something if Yes matches the album that followed that single, Very.

Pet Shop Boys work best with a single producer (or on their own); it's unlikely they – or anyone else for that matter – will better Behaviour, with Harold Faltermeyer. Very comes close and its successor Bilingual contains some of their best latterday songwriting but is often harshly overlooked (the odd tweak, most notably by Trouser Enthusiasts, was needed to brush the tunes up to best effect). Nightlife is best overlooked and Release is half good, if you remove the half with, eurgh, guitars.

I suspect that I, and others, championed the last album, Fundamental, because we wanted it to be good. It was produced by Trevor Horn (who also produced one of Pet Shop Boys' greatest single moments, Left to my own devices). Fundamental features Human League-style vocals, New Order basslines and, erm, Trevor's horns but, for some inexplicable reason, the band decided to change the tracklisting just before release. The songs on Fundamental sound better in any other order than the one they're in. Bloody Communists.

Love etc and Did you see me coming? hint at a band happy with the world, rather than at odds with it. Maybe that's why the album is called Yes. We'll see on March 23.

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