If there's a very minor revival of brilliant '80s Europop going on at the moment, it's confirmed by the best track on Pet Shop Boys' new album, Yes. The Way It Used To Be riffs on the same synth pipe sounds as Voyage Voyage, with some delicate guitar oddly not from collaborator Johnny Marr, creating a moment of real poignancy among the pop clichés of the rest of the album. It's up there with probably one of the best Europop tracks of two decades ago, Words, by FR David, who is commemorated in an eponymous art journal from bonkers Dutch publisher De Appel. It bears the epigram, "Words, don't come easy," of course.
The Way It Used To Be and the few other standout songs on Yes were all co-written with producers Xenomania (the others being single Love etc and the break in More Than a Dream that's pure Belinda Carlisle; to which I would add track Pandemonium, which has something of Xenomania's verve). The production team were either locked out of the studio for the other tracks, couldn't be bothered, or PSB's songwriting isn't up to the match (see Girls Aloud's dreary The Loving Kind, which is The Other Two's Tasty Fish but not as tasty).
The experiment does work, however, on double-CD release Yes etc, which features a second disc of instrumental remixes. PSB have released companion discs to albums before - Fundamentalism was a non-starter, Relentless a fire-starter. This kicks in with a great new track, This Used to Be the Future, featuring Phil Oakey, and bounces along very happily indeed for the following six dub versions.
On Yes etc, PSB do what they do best, something they don't do on Yes itself: create great pop using today's sounds without reverting to cliché ("I wanna live like beautiful people/Give like beautiful people"; "This is a song about boys and girls/You hear it playing all over the world"; "Do you believe heaven is a better place?/We'll be there in a heartbeat." Cripes). I'll forgive them if The Way It Used To Be does herald an '80s Europop revival, however small.
PS PSB quote themselves on that great moment in More Than a Dream: "Driving through the night…" Used to be so exciting, we might add.
UPDATE For another great Europop film finale, check out Jessica Hausner's Lourdes.