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Tag Archives: Pet Shop Boys

Boys Life

Occasionally I will get into a certain musical artist’s output during a specific time period — lately it’s been the Pet Shop Boys’ 1999-2004 output. I started off with ’99’s Nightlife, the last PSB disc I bought when it was new. This one got a mixed reception from fans, but I enjoyed it at the time and found on re-listen that it still holds up nicely, thankyouverymuch. Most of the album’s appeal comes from the airy, almost cinematic production by Rollo and Craig Armstrong. Some of the tunes have this beautiful, orchestral feel — which really comes in handy during the times when Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s dry irony gets laid on too thick (as on “Vampires”). As on other albums, they often go for the jugular in terms of emotion, something rarely heard in synth pop. The pathos of “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” is a good example of just how moving they can be.

Defying expectations, the Pet Shoppers followed Nighlife with 2002’s Release, a laid-back, guitar-oriented effort. This album was greeted with perhaps the worst reception of the boys’ entire career. People wanted nothing to do with a glum, introspective PSB, apparently. It’s actually not all that bad, but the shortage of memorable tunes doesn’t exactly make this a keeper, either. “Home and Dry” was the oddly bland choice for first single, with the anthemic (thanks to Johnny Marr’s guitar) “I Get Along” being a much improved follow-up. I ended up getting a cheap used copy of the deluxe Release recently. The album is pleasant chill out music, marred by the dated (and unnecessary) vocoder effects on several tracks. One highlight is “The Night I Fell In Love,” Tennant and Lowe’s airy tale of bedding a macho rapper who bears a striking resemblance to Eminem. That and “I Get Along” belong on a PSB’s Greatest compilation. The rest, not so much.

Completing my Pet Shop Boys journey meant downloading the two new tracks off their 2003 compilation, PopArt: The Hits. The sleek “Miracles” was a good stab at relevance, but the real stunner was “Flamboyant”. This and its b-side, “I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today,” count as two of my favorite PSB tracks. I’m also loving the “Flamboyant” video, a dizzying montage which includes clips of Japanese game show contestants making cleverly choreographed shapes from their bodies. Like the Pet Shop Boys themselves, it’s bizarre and brilliant at the same time.