Monday, January 25, 2010

Rewind: A Decade Of The Pet Shop Boys

Originally published 1/25/10 this post was removed by blogger on November 19, 2010 after they received a DMCA complaint regarding this post. The complaint came from IFPI claiming the post is "offering direct links to files containing sound recordings for other users to download". This is simply not true. Every link contained in the post was to a streaming video of a song.
Read for yourself to decide if the IFPI is doing the artists it claims to represent a service by shutting down posts such as this:

As the decade began there were significant rumblings that the Pet Shop Boys might call it day.  Touching everything from country to disco this past decade Neil & Chris exhibited an energy few bands possess releasing three studio albums, fifteen singles, creating a musical, two Disco albums, embracing a new role as remixers and scoring a silent film soundtrack.  Let's take a look back on the last ten years with the Pet Shop Boys:

Single: "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When Your Drunk"
Remix: Fat Les 2000 "Jerusalem" & Bloodhound Gang "Mope"
Neil & Chris celebrated the arrival of the new century by closing out the wigged Nightlife-era with the country-flavored "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When Your Drunk".  The song's guitar solo was a sign of things to come on their next "proper" album and the two remixes the Boys did that year signaled another new interest that would last throughout the decade.

Produce: Closer To Heaven Soundtrack, The Collaboration "Break 4 Love"
With the help of playwright Jonathan Harvey the PSB proved they are the rare act actually able to get an original musical to the stage.  The show only had a short run and has an air of mystery to it since it was likely not professionally filmed (although some fan footage has surfaced on youtube).  The soundtrack reunited them with longtime collaborator Stephen Hague as co-producers of an album that features cast members on vocal duty.  With no singles released the project showed that Neil & Chris were willing to follow their own muse into uncommercial areas of personal interest.  More of that to come.

Album: Release
Single: "Home And Dry" "I Get Along" "London"
Radio:  Peel Session
An emerging electro scene bubbling up around them Pet Shop Boys naturally made their "rock" album.  While fans rank Release as the duo's worst the album has it's proponents like Rolling Stone who rate it tied for PSB's second best album behind Very.  Much attention has been given to the guitar heavy sound but the songwriting is lifeless compared to their usual standards and the odd track selection left gems like "I Didn't Get Where I Am Today" as future b-side material.  Fortunately a Peel Session at the end of the year proved they still had plenty more to give including material that still has not yet been released.

Album: Disco 3
Compilation: PopArt
Single: "Miracles"
Produce: Kiki Kokova "Love To Love You, Baby"
Remix: Yoko Ono "Walking On Thin Ice" & Atomizer "Hooked On Radiation"
Write: Alcazar "Love Life"
On the surface the announcement of Disco 3 seemed to be an admission that the Boys had run out of ideas, but the actual product proved to be rather amazing.  Throwing out the rules of previous Disco installments the album is a fifty-fifty mix of new electro infused songs with mixes from the likes of electroclash leader Felix Da Housecat resulting in a satisfying album that knows how to get down.  They further signaled their approval for the new electro movement by producing an underground Donna Summer cover and remixing Atomizer and Yoko Ono.  Lending a song to Swedish eurodance outfit Alcazar the PSB then compiled an updated singles collection that featured two new tracks including the epic "Miracles" that proved they still had strong singles in them.

Single: "Flamboyant"
Remixed:  Rammstein "Mein Teil"
Produce: Pete Burns "Jack And Jill Party"
The celebrity culture skewering second single from PopArt is top form PSB and the single featured a remix from the Scissor Sisters right before they became stars in their own right.  The Boys next move was to record a fantastic underground electro track with Dead Or Alive's Pete Burns shortly before he resurfaced to mainstream attention on Celebrity Big Brother.  They rounded out the year with an unexpected remix for German industrial rock band Rammstein.

Album: Battleship Potemkin Soundtrack
Compile: Back To Mine
First performed live at Trafalgar Square in 2004 there is nothing pop about this largely instrumental soundtrack to Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent film.  An experiment in creating continuous music for images it is the Boys first album to be released on a classical label which caused confusion among fans not used to the composer first format that put Tennant/Lowe atop the album design.  Interestingly a DVD release of the eighty year old film, often described as communist propaganda, has been held up due to a dispute over the rights.  They also curated an installment of the popular Back To Mine compilation series that gave a disc each to Neil & Chris.

Album: Fundamental
Single: "I'm With Stupid" "Minimal" "Numb"
Produce: Robbie Williams "She's Madonna" & "We're The Pet Shop Boys"
Remix: Madonna "Sorry"
Live Album: Concrete
Documentary: A Life In Pop
Reunited with legendary producer Trevor Horn the PSB attempted to make sense of the post-9/11 world in an album that was hailed as a return to form.  If they had included the Richard X-produced bonus track "Fugitive" and the b-sides "The Resurrectionist" & "Bright Young Things" it would have been a classic disc.  They found time to contribute a couple of tracks to Robbie Williams Rudebox but it was a high point that the Boys remixed Madonna after nearly twenty years of anticipating working with her.  Their mix went on to become the way Madge performed the song on her tour.  As the subject of a well produced documentary featuring a number of musicians testifying to the power of their pop the year also saw the Pet Shop Boys release their first live album.

Album: Disco 4
Single: "Integral"
Remix: The Killers "Read My Mind"
Changing the rules of the Disco series again Neil & Chris showcased their remixes of other artists material on Disco 4.  The album gave them the opportunity to release their first download-only single "Integral" which many consider the strongest single pick from Fundamental.

Produce: Sam Taylor-Wood "I'm In Love With A German Film Star"
Co-write: Girls Aloud "The Loving Kind" The Killers "Joseph, Better You Than Me"
Remix: MGMT "Kids"
Their production of Sam Taylor-Wood's take on The Passions "I'm In Love With A German Film Star" and a leaked MGMT remix made some waves but the highlight of the year was the PSB's first collaboration with Xenomania that may have caused the "disinclined" Girls Aloud to look for a dictionary.

Album: Yes
Single: "Love, Etc" "Did You See Me Coming?" "Beautiful People" Christmas EP
Remix: Lady Gaga "Eh, Eh (Nothing More I Can Say)"
Write: West End Girls "A Little Black Dress" & Shirley Bassey "The Performance Of My Life"
The year kicked off well enough with Neil & Chris accepting a lifetime award and performing a career spanning megamix at the Brits but they weren't looking back.  Producers Xenomania helped the Boys create Yes which Neil accurately described as sounding like a greatest hits album.  Despite a plethora of potential singles their label made some odd decisions like making the second single a b-side of the first single and generally not giving the album promotional push it deserves.  Their own tribute group West End Girls borrowed a previously unrecorded song for a single and the legendary Shirley Bassey received a new composition for her high profile comeback album.  They performed Stuart Price assisted mash-up versions of their hits on a world spanning tour while wearing boxes on their heads and wrapped up some loose ends with the Christmas EP which saw them take on one of the decades biggest rock groups and finally properly release a fan favorite seasonal track that premiered nearly a decade before.

:  Where do they go from here?  A live DVD and album is planned for February and there are at least two major single contenders so far untouched from Yes.  Hopefully their label will see the light and get at least one of those out there with a proper video.  Neil & Chris did some initial work on an original ballet, have talked about doing another musical and there are rumors of a collection of collaborations as well another b-side compilation.  Whatever they do commit to it is sure to be interesting.

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