Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Pet Shop Boys

I just got the new Pet Shop Boys album Fundamental a couple of days ago and listened to it properly today. Unfortunately, when I pre-ordered my copy online months ago I didn’t know they were going to have a limited edition version with a second CD of all remixed tracks. Now that I got mine I went online to check stuff out and saw that now amazon has the limited edition one. I ordered it but it says it takes 4-6 weeks to dispatch. Oh well. I still want it. I’ve transferred all the songs from the CD I got onto my iPod so that I won’t use the CD and will give it to my fellow PSB fan, S – who, along with E, has danced with me to the extended version of “A Red Letter Day” on repeat for literally hours on end!

Anyway, on to Fundamental.

But first, let me start by saying that I am a massive PSB fan, and I have been since childhood. In the 80s I was listening to whatever my older sisters were listening to so I was well acquainted with the Pet Shop Boys by the time I owned my first album, Discography (a greatest hits of sorts) in 1991. But through Discography I discovered a whole new world of my own. Specifically, “Being Boring” changed my life – not to sound over dramatic but it really did in however “real” of a way a song can actually change you. I remember the first time I heard it, sitting with my sisters and two of my older cousins and it came on TV – it was the first year after the invasion. I was 12. And it blew me away. The whole thing – the video, the song, the lyrics. I would say it was at that moment that my own private love affair with the Pet Shop Boys truly began. PSB songs have a way of reminding you about everything you’ve ever lived through, and everything you’ve ever dreamed or imagined or just simply felt. Songs like “Being Boring” and so many others – they remind you of when you were younger – even if just a few years ago: of the way you used to fantasize about the future, of walking down city streets at dawn, of laughing in fits of hysterics, of saying tearful goodbyes, of spending the night in a car, of dancing through the night, of travelling with friends, of sitting on rooftops talking for hours, of falling in love and dealing with death, of doing things you might never be able to do again – days when you were at your most free, when you were at your craziest, when you were at your happiest, and when you were at your saddest. They make you feel flamboyant, and they make you feel tragic. I guess that sums up Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe themselves – flamboyant, and ever so tragic. And genius…pure genius. If my life had a voice, it would be the voice of Neil Tennant.

Anyway, on to Fundamental.

But first, to give you a frame of reference of my taste, my favourite PSB tracks are (in chronological order): “End of the World” and “Being Boring” (from Behaviour), “Miserablism” (B-side track from 1989-1990), “A Red Letter Day” (all versions!) and “Survivors” (from Bilingual), “In Denial” and “Footsteps” (from Nightlife), “Home and Dry” and “I Get Along” (from Release), and “Flamboyant” (from Pop/Art – and a remix version is on the second CD of the limited edition of Fundamental). I’ve had other favourites come and go – especially when I was younger – but in recent years these have been the ones that have given me most pleasure. I’d say out of all of these “Being Boring” has been with me the longest, and is perhaps most significant. All of these songs make me want to dance and make me want to cry at the same time. That’s the beauty of the Pet Shop Boys. They’re songs are all so bittersweet.

So, finally, here are my thoughts on Fundamental after one day of listening. Overall, the album is certainly not disappointing. As a PSB fan, I hear the same something special in this that I heard in all their previous albums when I first listened to them. I have formed different relationships with all my PSB albums – usually (to me), every song on every album works in its own way, and so you get used to listening to it from beginning to end, and form a relationship with each track one by one. As such, I need some more time to get to know this album to be able to really give it my full account. But, after listening to the album through from beginning to end twice today – first with the CD booklet in hand and second on my iPod while walking around London in the rain – I already have my favourite tracks. After listening to it a few more times I know I’ll start listening differently – hearing things my ears didn’t pick up immediately. But in the meantime, here is my immediate assessment of the first most memorable tracks:

“The Sodom and Gomorrah Show” – very much that flamboyant theatrical side of PSB that brings out the West End performer in you. But by the first chorus you forget all about theatrics and want to just sing at the tops of your lungs, and dance with your arms outspread and your feet barely touching the ground.

“Numb” – the one with the powerful lyrics that makes you want to cry and speaks volumes when you’re in a dark mood – which is sometimes a perfect PSB mood. “I think that I feel too much, I’ve seen too much, there’s just too much thought in my head, I wanna be numb.”

“I’m With Stupid” – the classic PSB dance track. Actually reminds me a bit of “Miserablism” – only higher tempo. This track should be easily palatable to PSB fans and casual listeners alike.

“Casanova in Hell” – absolutely my favourite on this album, from the first second I heard it. For those of you familiar with the tracks I listed as my favourites of all time above, this should come as no surprise. I love it when Neil sings that slightly higher pitch like he does a few times in this song (“what he will write, will recall the bite, of his wit, and legendary appetite”) – it just tugs at my heartstrings. This song will last a long time for me.

“Indefinite Leave to Remain” – another great one. What I love about PSB is that they write beautiful songs about things that most musicians never even consider. Like about applying for citizenship in a country that you have fallen in love with – a place that you have made your home and want to make official. “Seeing you here, you’re my nation, this is my application, give me hope, keep me sane, give me indefinite leave to remain.” Reminds me a bit of their song “London” on Release which was written from the perspective of two Russian immigrants in London (another beautiful song).

“Integral” – the anthem of the album. Every PSB album needs an anthem, and this seems to be it.

Let's see how things change as I keep listening to it. For now, I'll leave you here with some lines from my favourite PSB songs listed above:

“Prophets all predicted extinction, the virgin spoke in apparitions, and if it all came to pass now, you feel we’d all deserved it somehow. But if someone tried, you’d realize, it’s just a boy or a girl, it’s not the end of the world.” (“End of the World”)

“When you’re young you find inspiration in anyone who’s ever gone and opened up a closing door, she said we were never feeling bored. Cause we were never being boring, we had too much time to find for ourselves, and we were never being boring, we dressed up and fought, then thought: make amends, and we were never holding back worried that time would come to an end … we were always hoping that, looking back, you could always rely on a friend.” (“Being Boring” – phenomenal lyrics in the whole track – they travel with me throughout my life, just like the parting words of Stephen Dedalus in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.)

“Meanwhile your life is still directed as a drama, with realism on the sparsest of sets, every performance tends to reach the same conclusion, no happy endings but a message to depress.” (“Miserablism”)

“All I want is what you want, I’m always waiting for a red letter day, like Christmas morning, when you’re a kid, admit you love me and you always did.” (“A Red Letter Day”)

“If life is worth living, it’s got to be run, as a means of giving, not as a race to be won, many roads will run through many lives, but somehow we’ll arrive, many roads will run through many lives, but somewhere we’ll survive.” (“Survivors”)

“My life is absurd, I’m living it upside down, like a vampire working at night, sleeping all day.” (“In Denial”)

“Loneliness and useless fear, like waves against a ramshackle pier, when thunder and rain, scar the windowpane, once again, I want you near.” (“Footsteps”)

“There’s a plane at JFK to fly you back from far away, all those dark and frantic trans-Atlantic miles. Oh tonight, I miss you, oh tonight, I wish you could be here with me but I won’t see you till you’ve made it back again, home and dry.” (“Home and Dry”)

“Stuck here with the shame and taking my share of the blame while making sudden plans that don’t include you…” (“I Get Along”)

“It all takes courage, you know it, just crossing the street, well its almost heroic.” (“Flamboyant”)


  • i love 'i'm with stupid', and you know why. i havent listened to to any other songs from their new album. for a fan, but not as hardcore as yourself, do you think the new album is a 'must own', or more of a 'download those songs...' type?

    my fave psb songs:

    red letter day (it turned the night you referred to into a 'red letter night', in more than one way. those who were present know what i'm talking about)

    home and dry

    i'm with stupid

    suburbia (LOVE it)

    oops...ran out of time...all of the popular ones.

    By Anonymous edo rex, at 5/28/2006 11:19 am  

  • You described PSB to a tee. The tragic happiness. The happy tragedy. What was that song we used to listen to growing up (not PSB) that always made us feel that way?? Can't remember...

    But your descriptions were great. Loved this post. I have to get the album. How can anyone not love PSB?

    “I think that I feel too much, I’ve seen too much, there’s just too much thought in my head, I wanna be numb.”
    Love that quote - was just saying that about myslef to my O... How even in sleep my mind won't quit, which makes it so hard for me to truly rest!

    Another group that's great is The Smiths - although Morrissey could never be accused of having anything resembling happiness in his songs! I mention them because they have a Greatest Hits album out - but so many of their greatest songs from Strangeways Here We Come are not on there! Still, it's a good album to have.

    By Blogger Raine, at 5/28/2006 11:47 am  

  • Edo Rex: Yes, "I'm With Stupid"...good one! Also, whether it's a must own or not doesn't matter because I'm giving you the copy I have now after I get my limited edition copy. :) You'll get it in a few weeks when I get to Kuwait.

    Yes, "Suburbia" is great too - used to be a childhood favourite of mine. As were most of the songs on Discography that came from previous albums (like "Where the Streets Have No Name/Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" - brilliant track).

    Raine: Wasn't the song we used to listen to growing up that had that happy/tragic feeling "Oh Patti"? Steve Winwood also had that with "While You See a Chance" and "Arc of a Diver".

    Anyway, when I heard that line from "Numb" I swear I thought "Oh my god, this is for me and my sisters!" Hehehe. Anyway, yeah the Smiths are amazing - I've been listening to them a lot lately. Morrissey has a new album out this year, you know? "Ringleader of the Tormentors" - look at the track listing - vintage Morrissey! "Life is a Pigsty" and "I Just Want to See the Boy Happy"! I need to get this - I've downloaded a few songs but I want to buy the album.

    Scritti Politti has a new album coming out tomorrow. I didn't pre-order it on amazon because I realized why pre-order stuff when I can just walk down the street to HMV and buy it? Anyway, so expect another one of these reviews tomorrow. Another important group in our lives!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/28/2006 3:08 pm  

  • kleio: thanks. looking forward to recieving the cd

    raine: the smiths kick ass, especially 'everyday is like sunday'.

    since we're on the topic of 'oldies' (can't belive they are already) but goodies, and songs that remind us of our youth going bowling at what was once the hilton, then safir international, then safir, now demolished building, i decided to add a list some of the songs that take me back in time to that period:

    fleetwood mac, 'tell me lies'

    roxy, 'i'm just a jealous guy'

    roy orbison, 'drove all night'

    pretenders, pretty much ANYTHING they have done, EVER

    heart, 'these dreams'

    pat benetar, 'love is a battlefield'

    as usual, there are many more but i can't think of anymore at the moment, final exams stress does that. the only reason i remembered those was because i heard them on the way to uni in the car.
    i know you two will extend that list for me:)

    By Anonymous edo rex, at 5/29/2006 3:08 pm  

  • Edo Rex: Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders is one of the coolest women ever. I LOVE the Pretenders. Lots of stuff takes me back to the old days in Kuwait - I'd have to say mainly Nik Kershaw, Scritti Politti, the INXS "Listen Like Thieves" album, and lots of other random stuff. I'm sure Raine can add some!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/30/2006 4:50 pm  

  • YOU'RE SURE RAINE CAN ADD SOME??? WHAT ABOUT RED?????????????????????????? YOU BOTH HAVE ME TO THANK FOR YOUR IMPECCABLE TASTE IN POP MUSIC. Your description of PSB is perfect. "Being Boring" gave me that exact same feeling and at the exact same time; isn't it strange?? I die for Scritti Politti (and I DID pre-order...counting the seconds). The Smiths, Morrissey on his own, Depeche Mode, Eurasure, Nik Kershaw, New Order, INXS, Duran Duran, Roxy Music, The Cure, etc. etc. etc...these are all beyond brilliant. Bring back the 80s. Please...

    By Anonymous red, at 6/02/2006 9:03 pm  

  • Red, oops...it's just that you haven't been here in a while!! Welcome back! :) And yes, we do owe our taste in music to you. I swear, I still own tapes you used to make for me when I was a kid. The first tape you ever gave me was Steve Winwood when I was around 6 and he's still one of my favourites of all time (imagine my shock when I first heard the remix of "Valerie", called "Call On Me" - last year's biggest pop/dance hit - I almost fell over...it was sooooo strange!). Remember sometimes we'd all shut the door to your room, turn off the lights, blast the music, and dance for hours? In a funny way, when you think of the fact that there's a nine year age gap between us, music in many ways became a major common denominator in our relationship when I was still in my single digits and you were already a teenager!

    Also, remember the impact Jellyfish's first album "Bellybutton" had on us? The baby on the cover of the "Baby's Coming Back" single, and the lyrics to "Bedspring Kiss"? :) Me-mo-ries! Makes me think of our morning drives to the donut shop on the way to school, the three of us, listening to Rick Dees on 102.7 Kiss FM and hoping all our favourites would come on - "The Joker", and "Time of the Season" ("What's your name, who's your daddy, is he rich is he rich like me?") - isn't it strange how old so many of them were yet they'd play every morning? Good old Rick Dees. And Raine would predict each song before it came on...remember that?! Fun!

    Please excuse me while I go cry as I listen to "I Wanna Stay Home" by Jellyfish (Red, if you have the CD or still have the tape, listen to it right now...it's still as magical). *Sigh*

    By Blogger Kleio, at 6/03/2006 1:04 am  

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