I know it has been quite lately on here, but I am hoping to get a few things up over the next week or so. I started with the Jack White album, but now I want to look at something from my past. Without giving my age away, I have always had a big love of 80's pop; but mostly the strange end of it - Depeche Mode, Erasure, and A-Ha. But as well as the Bananarama's and other bands, I also had a huge amount of Pet Shop Boys albums. This is the fourth album from the London based duo and is now approaching its 24th anniversary. When this album first came out, I found it disjointing to the rest of their collection; it was too different and grown up for my tastes. It felt reflective and mournful; it was not for me at that time. But over the years I have wanted to return to it for a serious listen, so as I am doing a blog now it would seem that the opportunity has presented itself. Has aged changed my view, has the album matured or have it just kept a constant?
Starting the album is the almost seven minute long "Being Boring". With guitar work from recording session legend J.J. Belle, this song is so trapped in its own past it could be classed for English Heritage status. It is the story of a person who is remembering days passed and looking towards a bleak future. It is depressing, mournful and not what the band had been doing beforehand. Of course, I love it. It is one of the most perfectly crafted pieces of music that was ever committed to tape and it is still as powerful today as it was back in 1990. It is pop perfection and I was a fool to doubt it all those years ago. Next is "This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave" which features Johnny Marr from Smiths/Electronic fame. Whilst this does not have the passion and drive of the "Being Boring", it again has aged incredible well. It still has a foot in the 80's to be honest, but it is bring the sound to a future that was at that point unknown. The band would admit that this album was influenced by Depeche Mode's 'Violator'. On the first two songs, that is not so much a suggestion but a fact. They took that dark aspect of themselves and brought it to the forefront. "To Face The Truth" follows on and is another retrospective looking track. Whilst it does not have the power of the first two tracks, I have to admit that it is still a decent number which is not as exciting as the first two.
"How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously" is the most PSB track on the album, it is sarcastic, dark humoured and full of that 80's bravado and style. It is also a song with a guitar solo from Neil Tennant on it, which is something I never thought I would ever type. It is a strange piece in some ways, but it shows that the band could still try to keep some of their fans happy whilst trying to flex their music wings. Coming next is "Only The Wind" which is another ballad of sorts. It is a standard affair that would not have been out of place on an early A-Ha album, but some of the dramatic keyboard used by Chris Lowe on it clashes with the overall theme of the song which detracts from the beauty of the work. "My October Symphony" is a little bit more uplifting in someways. With more work from Mr Marr on it, it would have been really good. However, it just feels like a reworking of "Being Boring". It just feels like a re-telling of a story which was done so well earlier that it does not need to be done to a lesser effect later on; it is a shame really. However, things get back on track with "So Hard". This track was the first single off the album, its video was shot in Newcastle and North Tyneside (Neil Tennant was actually born in my hometown of North Shields); so to see this video with landmarks I see every day was very special whilst growing up. Thankfully, this tale of a destructive relationship falling to pieces is equal to the video and still gives me excitement all these years later.
"Nervously" is a strange number, it wants to be reflective but the music does not quite match the intention behind the song. I can see what was behind the song, it is about that strange feeling about the early relationships; but it does not quite come together here, it is close but there is no cigar. "The End Of The World" is another throw back to the band's more nightclub days, but it does have the sombre mood that has been the major theme going through the album. It is a strange mix, but again as with "My October Symphony" I feel like I have been in this song before with the Pet Shop Boys. It feels like a re-working of "It's Alright" from 'Introspective' but without the drama, again not a bad thing; but it is not something I would have chosen to do as the original was so good. Ending the album is "Jealousy" - wow. This song just nails that dark mood of the album to the mast; it is so bitter, twist and full of venom that I cannot describe the chills that I feel when I hear it. To compound the matter, it was released as the last single of the album. How in the blue hell is this a chart single??? It is dark and evil, it makes sense that it was done as it is the stand out track of the album. But it was a strange choice to say the least for a chart hit, but what an ending.
This album has matured in places with grace and dignity, it has some of the Pet Shop Boys darkest, with some of their more special moments and it is a shame that they have not done another album like it. This seems to be them throwing their serious hat into the ring and then they have never returned. Maybe they thought this was enough for them, I can see an argument for that as well. They would do separate songs that were as sombre, but overall this is the band at its most bleak. Yes it has a few filler tracks, but overall I find that the album stands better now than ever. It is a piece of work which I now listen to more than anything else they have ever done, seems like teenagers don't know everything.....
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top track - Jealousy
You can purchase the remastered version from Amazon here, but the original is also on there too
You can visit the Pet Shop Boys website here
You can listen to the deluxe version of the album on Spotify here
For our Deezer user (and for some reason it is coming up in Spanish for me), here is a link for you