This anticipation is a stimulation...

For general discussion of Pet Shop Boys topics.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Drico One
Posts: 5529
Joined: Tue 16 Sep 2003, 8:56 pm
Contact:

This anticipation is a stimulation...

#1 Post by Drico One »

Hello forum. I think you'll agree that it's always a thrilling moment when a much-admired, much-loved act returns from self-imposed exile to remind us of the life-affirming brilliance that's been sorely missed during a seemingly-endless absence. But enough about me. I'm sure you're just as excited as I am about the impending return of our heroes, Neil and Chris. Superheroes, no less.

In the build-up to another marvelously obsessive year of poring over new songs, lyrics, melodies, artwork, and disastrous midweek chart positions, I've been listening to the back catalogue and ruminating on what my top 30 PSB tracks would be if compiled for an imaginary double-CD retrospective. It's 30 years since Please, so now's as good a time as any to select 30 tracks that, for me, represent their very finest work. Basically, I'm just looking for an excuse to waffle endlessly on here about my favourite PSB songs as we put down the time to the new album without falling out or polling each other to death.

Over the next week or so, I'll write about a number of songs each day in reverse order from 30 to 1. Hopefully, you'll be interested enough to contribute your thoughts about these selections. To keep things inclusive, I'll also write each day about a selection of songs that don't make my top 30. Feel free to take the topic off in whatever direction you like, discussing whatever songs you like. Maybe you'll be moved to reveal your own list. Maybe you'll be bored witless and will point and laugh at the lack of response to this thread.

Before I begin, a caveat. My preferences tend to change depending on my moods. There is nothing definitive about this list, but it's a reasonable approximation of the songs that I hold most dear in the back catalogue at any given time. Loads of fantastic records have missed out, but the PSB canon is of such incredible quality that a top 30 was never going to do it justice.

So, let's begin. What will we call this imaginary best of? It has to be a one-word title so I'm going for Thirtysomething. It reflects the duration of their career – it started before 1986, after all – and mirrors Neil's stage in life when they hit the big time. It also allows me to squeeze in, say, two extra tracks to fill two imaginary CDs. Oh, such deviousness.

The Countdown Begins...

Number 32. Your Funny Uncle (1989)

Simple, affecting, and resolutely valedictory, this piano-led elegy encapsulates the deep humanity of their songwriting. Arguably their greatest b-side, the poignant beauty of this lovely song emerges from a deft mix of heartfelt grief and wryly observant wit. There's a stiff upper lip here that's allowed to quiver – and even smile. A moving, mannered tribute to the human spirit.

Number 31. Dreaming of the Queen (1993)

One of the characteristics of Pet Shop Boys that I most adore is playfulness. Even in the midst of the alienation and devastation of a communal and personal apocalypse, there is humour. The delicacy of Tennant's hand is admirable. While he sends up the ludicrousness of an impromptu royal visit – for tea, no less – he does so fondly. The Queen is "aghast", which is marvelously gentle satire, and Neil's sudden self-awareness on discovering his state of undress once more reflects the ridiculousness of it all.

Number 30. Shameless (1993)

A glorious, satirical romp that was years ahead of itself, this b-side had the temerity to compete with it’s a-side, Go West, in the ludicrously-over-the-top-and-down-the-other-side stakes. The sheer scale of Shameless, a biting critique of vacuous, z-list celebrity culture that predicted the cancerous reign of Simon Cowell and the witless triumph of brass-necked ambition, still marvels. Nakedness makes an appearance here too, hilariously so as Chris seems to elongate the frenetic synth line in mock terror just as our plastic protagonist threatens to disrobe. Exhilarating in its conviction.

Please feel free to post your impressions of these songs, and I'll continue with numbers 29 to 25 inclusive in my next post. But first a quick word on one of the tracks that has missed out.

Some of the best moments on Please, whose 30th anniversary it is this year, dealt with longing and escape. When you're young, you relate to music that reflects your subconscious yearning. Two Divided by Zero, a mysterious tale of potential elopement, intoxicated me. There is a need to get away in this song – "it's better to go sooner" – and its tension is driven by the apparent choice that the central figure has to wrestle with: to return home or to run away. This was the sound of Neil and Chris escaping Suburbia by running into the cityscape. It is also the sound of growing up, that moment when you feel the competing forces of dangerous adventure and familiar security pulling you in opposite directions.

That's my lot for now. I'll wrap up by saying that we should cherish this moment of anticipation, this brief period of giddy excitement prior to the release of a new Pet Shop Boys album. In a week that saw the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, and has seen Black, of Wonderful Life fame, put into an induced coma in a hospital in Ireland after a serious car crash, we should appreciate how lucky we are. I hope everyone enjoys the year ahead. It's nice to see people so happy at what's to come. Let the new era begin.

Drico.
The pale kid that hides in the attic behind his PC...

User avatar
Zog
Posts: 2271
Joined: Wed 29 Oct 2003, 2:37 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#2 Post by Zog »

Seconded, Drico!

The snippet is about as teasing as one could possibly hope for, IMO.

Even though I have been a bit of an on and off Bowie fan (largely because I felt he filled too many of his more "recent" albums with a fair amount of so-so, almost experimental material). However, the "ups" in Bowie's career are/were (no: "are"... his music lives on) are huge.

Bowie left us with an album wih some amazing and, yes, genuinely moving (and almost terrifying, in places) material: for example:

a) the middle section of the first track "Blackstar", where the disharmony breaks into a stunning hymn-like melody.

b) "Lazarus": the most chilling video I have ever seen.

c) "Dollar Days": a classic old/school Bowie track of the finest quality.

d) finally "I Can't Take it With Me": the beautiful melodic melody sung by Bowie, over (again) the hymn-like strings. The moving paean from a dying man.


After playing those songs to death (literally, for they are "To Death") in my car. I have let my stereo go silent for the last day or two, to quietly reflect upon the loss of a man who probably more than anyone else, inspired Neil, in particular in his formative years. Neil has said as much himself.

So now this, I woke up very early in the morning, (Pacific Coast Time), to Wayne's rumour, and watched at first with some interest, and then breathlessly as the news of "Super" became more snd more confirmed... and then the short euphoric sample: probably the intro to something stunning. I couldn't be more excited.

So welcome back Drico. I've only returned to posting after at least a year's absence. And to you fans who are a bit bemused by the sudden influx of posters: we are not new "fairweather" fans. We've just been hibernating.

-Zog
New Stuff
*** “Back-Track” - Retro Funk Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... k-mix-2018
*** “Cydonia” - Techno Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... x-mas-2018

User avatar
minimal
Posts: 432
Joined: Fri 28 Apr 2006, 11:46 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#3 Post by minimal »

Thank you very much, Drico. That was a nice Saturday morning read.

m+

whateverman42
Posts: 1025
Joined: Fri 17 Mar 2006, 7:34 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#4 Post by whateverman42 »

Your Funny Uncle and Dreaming Of The Queen would be in my top 30 as well, but Shameless I never got. Just listening to it sort of exhausts my ears: it has too much energy, the singing is done in a shout-style, and it's too samey throughout (similar to Before but Before was a more relaxed and enjoyable song with great rhythm). Shameless is just too hyper-kinetic without a strong melody to back it up. All that said I think it is a good song, just a middling PSB b-side (which if made by another band I'd think it was one of their best!).
Zog wrote:Bowie left us with an album wih some amazing and, yes, genuinely moving (and almost terrifying, in places) material: for example:

a) the middle section of the first track "Blackstar", where the disharmony breaks into a stunning hymn-like melody.

b) "Lazarus": the most chilling video I have ever seen.

c) "Dollar Days": a classic old/school Bowie track of the finest quality.

d) finally "I Can't Take it With Me": the beautiful melodic melody sung by Bowie, over (again) the hymn-like strings. The moving paean from a dying man.

After playing those songs to death (literally, for they are "To Death") in my car. I have let my stereo go silent for the last day or two, to quietly reflect upon the loss of a man who probably more than anyone else, inspired Neil, in particular in his formative years. Neil has said as much himself.
If I can ask you Zog, what do you think of his last two videos for Blackstar and Lazarus, and what do you think they're about? I've been feeling conflicted about his music and message since I watched Blackstar (about a week before he died). The fact he was dying does not, in my mind, absolve the videos and lyrics of their dark themes. What I mean by that is a lot of people are not understanding the message he was putting out, and gloss over the weird occult stuff by saying 'he knew he was dying so he was in a dark place'. Or even somehow think he was warning people in some way. Nevertheless, I sense a lot of people dismiss it as 'art' and move on. But there is a real message Bowie was conveying, he didn't just make this stuff up out of thin air.

I found this article very illuminating, it goes in depth on his occult leanings and the meanings behind his latest work:

http://vigilantcitizen.com/musicbusines ... blackstar/

Personally I find it less than wholesome and it makes me want to give his music a wide berth (what I saw in Blackstar was mocking preachers, believers and Jesus, and a weird ritual), but I share it so more people, especially his fans, have a deeper understanding of his work. It doesn't mean anyone has to agree with me about what he actually believed or felt, but the imagery he used is undeniable once understood.

One final note, why do most popular artists nowadays who push the envelope do so in such dark directions? I'm thinking of Rihanna, who had a video about killing someone and ended with her dripping in blood, Miley Cyrus pushing child abuse, and Lady Gaga who, well, pick any one of her videos to get a sense of how dark she gets. Why do the big pop stars not push the envelope towards beauty?

User avatar
Zog
Posts: 2271
Joined: Wed 29 Oct 2003, 2:37 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#5 Post by Zog »

whateverman42 wrote:Your Funny Uncle and Dreaming Of The Queen would be in my top 30 as well, but Shameless I never got. Just listening to it sort of exhausts my ears: it has too much energy, the singing is done in a shout-style, and it's too samey throughout (similar to Before but Before was a more relaxed and enjoyable song with great rhythm). Shameless is just too hyper-kinetic without a strong melody to back it up. All that said I think it is a good song, just a middling PSB b-side (which if made by another band I'd think it was one of their best!).
Zog wrote:Bowie left us with an album wih some amazing and, yes, genuinely moving (and almost terrifying, in places) material: for example:

a) the middle section of the first track "Blackstar", where the disharmony breaks into a stunning hymn-like melody.

b) "Lazarus": the most chilling video I have ever seen.

c) "Dollar Days": a classic old/school Bowie track of the finest quality.

d) finally "I Can't Take it With Me": the beautiful melodic melody sung by Bowie, over (again) the hymn-like strings. The moving paean from a dying man.

After playing those songs to death (literally, for they are "To Death") in my car. I have let my stereo go silent for the last day or two, to quietly reflect upon the loss of a man who probably more than anyone else, inspired Neil, in particular in his formative years. Neil has said as much himself.
If I can ask you Zog, what do you think of his last two videos for Blackstar and Lazarus, and what do you think they're about? I've been feeling conflicted about his music and message since I watched Blackstar (about a week before he died). The fact he was dying does not, in my mind, absolve the videos and lyrics of their dark themes. What I mean by that is a lot of people are not understanding the message he was putting out, and gloss over the weird occult stuff by saying 'he knew he was dying so he was in a dark place'. Or even somehow think he was warning people in some way. Nevertheless, I sense a lot of people dismiss it as 'art' and move on. But there is a real message Bowie was conveying, he didn't just make this stuff up out of thin air.

I found this article very illuminating, it goes in depth on his occult leanings and the meanings behind his latest work:

http://vigilantcitizen.com/musicbusines ... blackstar/

Personally I find it less than wholesome and it makes me want to give his music a wide berth (what I saw in Blackstar was mocking preachers, believers and Jesus, and a weird ritual), but I share it so more people, especially his fans, have a deeper understanding of his work. It doesn't mean anyone has to agree with me about what he actually believed or felt, but the imagery he used is undeniable once understood.

One final note, why do most popular artists nowadays who push the envelope do so in such dark directions? I'm thinking of Rihanna, who had a video about killing someone and ended with her dripping in blood, Miley Cyrus pushing child abuse, and Lady Gaga who, well, pick any one of her videos to get a sense of how dark she gets. Why do the big pop stars not push the envelope towards beauty?

I particularly liked the video (and song) for Lazarus, but in truth, the video and song Blackstar is rather unfocused, and could probably have used some editing. But back to Lazarus: Bowie's reason/excuse for being so dark is utterly genuine here, whereas I feel other rock/pop stars (including Bowie at times too), have used this death/darkness meme as a cheap ticket to "Hey, I'm a serious artist".

This is why I like the PSB so much, because they are not afraid to be upbeat at times, and when they do turn to darker themes, often it is cleverly written, so there is a depth to their music that is not always readily apparent to the casual listener. This is a trait the PSB share with the great classical composers. And I really mean this.

But back to Bowie: the darkness of the album is absolutely genuine, and to my ears the last song on the album is one of the greatest of his career.

The bottom line is fake pop darkness is a cheap and easy way to get taken seriously, unfortunately.


-Zog
New Stuff
*** “Back-Track” - Retro Funk Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... k-mix-2018
*** “Cydonia” - Techno Mix (MAS 2018)
https://soundcloud.com/martin-ashwoodsm ... x-mas-2018

User avatar
No Muscle Mary
Posts: 1806
Joined: Fri 31 Oct 2003, 9:07 am
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#6 Post by No Muscle Mary »

Black is in the same hospital as my dad in Cork right now. Fingers crossed both will recover.

Nice to see you back Drico, with your posts of epic length. Would never have guessed you were Irish :P
Churlicious

User avatar
Drico One
Posts: 5529
Joined: Tue 16 Sep 2003, 8:56 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#7 Post by Drico One »

Zog wrote:So welcome back Drico. I've only returned to posting after at least a year's absence. And to you fans who are a bit bemused by the sudden influx of posters: we are not new "fairweather" fans. We've just been hibernating.

-Zog
And welcome back to you, Zog. It's been over two years for me. Now, I'm reminded of: "after being, for so many years, the life and soul of the party, it's clear. I'm invisible."

That's us, that is. :wink:

Then again, "I'm here, but you can't see me" is just as appropriate.

Drico.
The pale kid that hides in the attic behind his PC...

User avatar
Drico One
Posts: 5529
Joined: Tue 16 Sep 2003, 8:56 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#8 Post by Drico One »

No Muscle Mary wrote:Black is in the same hospital as my dad in Cork right now. Fingers crossed both will recover.

Nice to see you back Drico, with your posts of epic length. Would never have guessed you were Irish :P
Best wishes to your father, Mary. Hope all turns out well.
minimal wrote:Thank you very much, Drico. That was a nice Saturday morning read.

m+
Nice of you to say so. It's all terribly civilised in here today.

Drico.
The pale kid that hides in the attic behind his PC...

User avatar
grantwww
Posts: 348
Joined: Fri 15 Jan 2010, 1:37 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#9 Post by grantwww »

Good to see "Dreaming of the Queen" getting a nod. This song has always been one of my favourite album tracks for the understated humour. I love the way Neil says "aghast".

I agree about "Shameless" too. So much energy and it worked well as the only old PSB song in "Closer to Heaven".

whateverman42
Posts: 1025
Joined: Fri 17 Mar 2006, 7:34 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#10 Post by whateverman42 »

Zog wrote:I particularly liked the video (and song) for Lazarus, but in truth, the video and song Blackstar is rather unfocused, and could probably have used some editing. But back to Lazarus: Bowie's reason/excuse for being so dark is utterly genuine here, whereas I feel other rock/pop stars (including Bowie at times too), have used this death/darkness meme as a cheap ticket to "Hey, I'm a serious artist".

This is why I like the PSB so much, because they are not afraid to be upbeat at times, and when they do turn to darker themes, often it is cleverly written, so there is a depth to their music that is not always readily apparent to the casual listener. This is a trait the PSB share with the great classical composers. And I really mean this.

But back to Bowie: the darkness of the album is absolutely genuine, and to my ears the last song on the album is one of the greatest of his career.

The bottom line is fake pop darkness is a cheap and easy way to get taken seriously, unfortunately.

-Zog
I forgot to say that it's nice to see Drico back, your in depth posts have been missed.

Interesting Zog, thank you. I also rank PSB up there in musical greatness with anybody, including classical composers, although pop and classical are hard to compare. But in terms of making music, whether it's pop or classical, PSB are undeniably consistent, diverse, and creative over 30 years that saw many technological changes and styles of music come and go. I don't think classical composers dealt with anything comparable to making music between 1985 and 2016. It's weird that when PSB began synthesizers were uncommon and, compared to today, relatively archaic what with manual splicing and tapes and unintuitive interfaces. Today any talented person in their bedroom could make a slickly produced album using their computer. That both PSB's early and late work both bear their unmistakable stamp and share the same high quality is some achievement.

Also, what I was trying to get at earlier was that I don't think such darkness is good for the listener (whether it comes from a real place or is artificial). I believe watching entertainment is similar to consuming food, but on a spiritual level instead of a physical one. Healthy food is good for the body, and junk food or poison will make you sick. Along these lines, watching Blackstar and reading the lyrics of his album, I just don't think it comes from a good place and could lead to spiritual sickness. That said, I don't deny it's greatness. The album musically and creatively is his best since Scary Monsters IMO. I just feel a bit queasy listening to it, there's too much cryptic occult stuff which I don't agree with. Fortunately for me PSB are quite normal guys with a regular outlook on the world! I quite like songs of love, aging, regret, heartache, and so on, instead of a fascination with occultism.

BrilliantPSB
Posts: 934
Joined: Thu 06 Nov 2003, 3:40 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#11 Post by BrilliantPSB »

welcome back, Drico. Nice to see you back old man. :)
Neil Tennant has a great voice, Chris Lowe has great silence.

User avatar
Drico One
Posts: 5529
Joined: Tue 16 Sep 2003, 8:56 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#12 Post by Drico One »

whateverman42 wrote: I forgot to say that it's nice to see Drico back, your in depth posts have been missed.
BrilliantPSB wrote:welcome back, Drico. Nice to see you back old man. :)
The pale kid that hides in the attic behind his PC...

User avatar
TheGardner
Posts: 4383
Joined: Wed 08 Jan 2003, 2:22 am
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#13 Post by TheGardner »

Drico One wrote:
hehehe :lol:
PSB news on WhatsApp?
Just send Hello! I Want To Join The Party.

User avatar
Drico One
Posts: 5529
Joined: Tue 16 Sep 2003, 8:56 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#14 Post by Drico One »

Number 29. Birthday boy (2002)

I used to have a theory about Birthday Boy, but I've long since forgotten it. However, the song itself persists, remaining something of an understated masterpiece. Beautifully sung at the lower end of the Tennant register, this features a stirring chorus and an epic middle section as it gradually builds to a huge crescendo. Magnificent.

Number 28. Love is a bourgeois construct (2013)

I've always had a weakness for their more preposterous pop jaunts, and Love is a bourgeois construct is the latest in a long line of ludicrousness. It's probably too clever by half, a tad too knowing, and veers dangerously close to self-parody, but the joyous fun to be had here at the expense of the smugly hopeless protagonist shows they've never lost their love of a laugh.

Number 27. Love etc (2009)

One of the greatest "growers" in their catalogue, Love etc will probably go into the books as their last hit single of any description. An infectious groove, insistent backing vocals, and a touching tale of making do in a world of acquisitive consumerism combine to produce something more enduring than the sum of its parts. The "you need more!" chant merely reflects the need to hear this again and again.

Number 26. The way it used to be (2009)

Despite reservations over the Yes album – where I felt so much of their personality and character was washed out by the dogmatic Brian Higgins, who seemed to treat them as he would empty vessels like Girls Aloud with inevitably inferior results – the best tracks were co-writes with Xenomania. The way it used to be reminded me of late-period ABBA, and if the lyric were slightly stronger would have placed even higher in this list. Sonically, it's tremendous, surging along from one hook to another. A highlight of their late-career renaissance.

Number 25. Integral (2006)

The ferocious Integral is stridently caustic in its Orwellian overtones. The ID card debate in the UK is merely the starting point for Tennant’s biting deconstruction of the entire New Labour project. The brilliantly inspired Frankie Goes To Hollywood chants deep into the song’s black heart recall 1984 in more than mere spirit, a startling touch of allegorical genius. The soaring somersaulting synths prior to the final glorious crescendo threaten to implode in a frenzy of bombastic hysteria (a bit like this paragraph), but Horn holds Chris Lowe’s thrilling orchestrations back just enough to keep things tastefully grotesque. The Performance pigs of 1991’s lavish stage show are invoked to dance around the totalitarian trough as Napoleon Blair utters his final approval. “Perfect.”
The pale kid that hides in the attic behind his PC...

User avatar
boyjohn
Posts: 1551
Joined: Wed 18 Jan 2006, 5:24 pm
Contact:

Re: This anticipation is a stimulation...

#15 Post by boyjohn »

Drico One wrote:Number 29. Birthday boy (2002)

I used to have a theory about Birthday Boy, but I've long since forgotten it. However, the song itself persists, remaining something of an understated masterpiece. Beautifully sung at the lower end of the Tennant register, this features a stirring chorus and an epic middle section as it gradually builds to a huge crescendo. Magnificent.

Number 28. Love is a bourgeois construct (2013)

I've always had a weakness for their more preposterous pop jaunts, and Love is a bourgeois construct is the latest in a long line of ludicrousness. It's probably too clever by half, a tad too knowing, and veers dangerously close to self-parody, but the joyous fun to be had here at the expense of the smugly hopeless protagonist shows they've never lost their love of a laugh.

Number 27. Love etc (2009)

One of the greatest "growers" in their catalogue, Love etc will probably go into the books as their last hit single of any description. An infectious groove, insistent backing vocals, and a touching tale of making do in a world of acquisitive consumerism combine to produce something more enduring than the sum of its parts. The "you need more!" chant merely reflects the need to hear this again and again.

Number 26. The way it used to be (2009)

Despite reservations over the Yes album – where I felt so much of their personality and character was washed out by the dogmatic Brian Higgins, who seemed to treat them as he would empty vessels like Girls Aloud with inevitably inferior results – the best tracks were co-writes with Xenomania. The way it used to be reminded me of late-period ABBA, and if the lyric were slightly stronger would have placed even higher in this list. Sonically, it's tremendous, surging along from one hook to another. A highlight of their late-career renaissance.

Number 25. Integral (2006)

The ferocious Integral is stridently caustic in its Orwellian overtones. The ID card debate in the UK is merely the starting point for Tennant’s biting deconstruction of the entire New Labour project. The brilliantly inspired Frankie Goes To Hollywood chants deep into the song’s black heart recall 1984 in more than mere spirit, an inspired touch of allegorical genius. The soaring somersaulting synths prior to the final glorious crescendo threaten to implode in a frenzy of bombastic hysteria (a bit like this paragraph), but Horn holds Chris Lowe’s thrilling orchestrations back just enough to keep things tastefully grotesque. The Performance pigs of 1991’s lavish stage show are invoked to dance around the totalitarian trough as Napoleon Blair utters his final approval. “Perfect.”

5/5, I love all these songs. Welcome back, Drico.
“Unless you consciously include, you will unconsciously exclude”
-Stephen Frost

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], Majestic-12 [Bot] and 13 guests