Friday, April 09, 2010

Flashback: Pet Shop Boys "Screaming" (1998)

Pet Shop Boys "Screaming" is one of the first tracks I experienced in the internet age. Accustomed to learning of upcoming releases from magazines or radio "Screaming" may be the first track I was first aware of from a site devoted to an artist. Given a spot on the soundtrack to Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of Psycho the song seemed the perfect place for the PSB to strike for a stateside comeback in the "golden" era of movie soundtracks that produced hugely popular discs accompanying films like Romeo + Juliet and Trainspotting. The other artists on the soundtrack gave the Boys potential to reach a more youthful audience than they were receiving at the time with a bit of late 90s rock (Rob Zombie) and country filling out an album heavy on electronica with contributions from Howie B, Thievery Corporation, Mono, Lamb and Lionrock. There was recent evidence that PSB could turn out contemporary electronica (see the drum 'n' bass inspired "Betrayed") and their label was calling the song a "possible single" so the stakes were raised.
The track turned out to be a major disappointment. One of the least focused or memorable songs in their catalog it is mostly samples of screaming over a pedestrian beat that sounded very played out in the late 90s and absolutely elderly among their soundtrack-mates. Really the only redeeming factor is that the esteemed PSB commentator GeoWayne calls the lyrics "disturbing" in the context of the soundtrack. Given the track is a co-write with Tom Stephan, who seems to earn his living these days from not-terribly-inspiring remixes of Pet Shop Boys tracks, it seems all too easy to lay the blame at his feet but the whole soundtrack was a disaster with only Howie B's cheeky movie-sampling "Once Is Not Enough" holding up for more than a few listens. Tread lightly when you disturb a Hollywood classic:

: In addition to appearing on the Psycho soundtrack "Screaming" was also a b-side on the superb "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore" single a year later. Happily the Pet Shop Boys survived the song.