Expectations

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Bulldog
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Expectations

#1 Post by Bulldog » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 11:12 am

So, are we all particularly excited with the perspective of a third Stuart Price produced album? To be honest I'm a little uncertain. Electric was a career highlight, but hearing it now some of its strength might come from it being a reaction to its anemic predecessor. And Super never really worked for me, it feels like many of the songs are choking in those endless layers and layers of echo and delay. I guess much of the value of the next album will depend on the strength of songwriting, as we kind of know what to expect from production...
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Re: Expectations

#2 Post by Drico One » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 11:57 am

Electric was a genuine revelation. Elysium is a beautiful, underrated, album, but Electric is driving, muscular, and thrilling - a bit like Disco. It's insistent and instant - a killer combination. Super is also excellent, but a little less expansive and slightly less consistent. With these last two albums, they have retooled their sound, yet remained faithful to the sonic motifs that defined them in the past. Opportunities for sombre reflection are fewer now that these albums must be toured, but that's not a bad thing in my book and has helped them refind their mojo. I'm very interested to see where they take things now. Price understands them, so as far as I'm concerned it's down to Neil and Chris to come up with the songs.

If Electric is better than Super, it's because the songs are more consistent and the quality control is tighter. Vocal, Bourgeois, and Thursday - a third of the album - are high-end modern PSB pop songs. But it's really a matter of personal taste. The Pop Kids and Undertow are definite highlights of the last decade, and Say It to Me and Burn are thoroughly enjoyable romps. For Axis on Electric, there's The Inner Sanctum on Super - both essential in my book. Sad Robot World and The Dictator Decides are surely worthy of any PSB decade. And it's quite thrilling that at this stage of their careers they can release something as bizarrely incongruous as Happiness, a totally unexpected hoe-down for the ages that still captures a sense of not quite knowing what the future is going to bring.

If we know what to expect from production, it's a sense that Price understands them. That said, he's taken them on some really fantastic sonic journeys on the last two albums to the extent that the listener might as well be going on a magical mystery tour. There's an exciting unpredictability about many of their songs now that keeps them fresh. I think he complements them superbly. But Neil needs to come up with the themes and Chris needs to come up with the hooks. The next album largely stands or falls on whether Neil has anything interesting to say. The frontman in any band must be somebody the listener can relate to and engage with. So has Neil got anything to say in 2018/19? Does Chris have the ideas that can set Neil off? Will we see the playfulness and wit that marks much of their best work, and, if so, in what quantities?

I'm just glad I still care, and that's largely because they still consistently hit the mark at levels way above anybody else.

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Re: Expectations

#3 Post by Bulldog » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 12:24 pm

I don't know, Drico. The idea behind the "trilogy" seems to be "ok, let's beef up every single song we have", which was fine at first - but when it came to Super, it felt like subtlety went completely out of the window. "Into thin air" sounds like some 2001 Saint Ken remix of "Two divided by zero".
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Re: Expectations

#4 Post by Drico One » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 12:37 pm

I don't think they've ever been marked out by their subtlety. Suburbia, It's a sin, Always on my mind, So hard, Streets, Can you forgive her?, Go West... Subtle? Not remotely. The kitchen sink has always been their friend. The great thing about them, though, is that they manage to throw the kitchen sink with such witty aplomb that any excess is usually part of the fun.

Super has its faults, but a lack of subtlety is hardly the stick to beat it with.

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Re: Expectations

#5 Post by Bulldog » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 12:48 pm

I mean it just looks like SP isn't that great at "reading" the songs themselves, their peculiarities. It's just one big "ok, let's put some more distortion on vocals" after the other, basically. It works with blatant bangers and some live rearrangements, but with lighter and pop stuff it's just a mess. You could say Horn did the same with the uberuse of orchestra on Fundamental, but on Super you can barely see those clever touches like that metal sheet at the end of "Luna Park"...
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Re: Expectations

#6 Post by Drico One » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 1:10 pm

I'll be honest, I can't even recall the metal sheet at the end of Luna Park. I really don't care what instruments a producer uses once the effect is memorable. In the case of Luna Park, that one has passed me by completely. That's either a comment on the effectiveness of the producer or my memory. I love Trevor Horn - and Fundamental is a wonderful album - but he's never been subtle and is renowned for over-working everything. Price is positively minimalist by comparison.

I can recall the thrilling into of Undertow, though, and the way it comes back in euphorically in the middle of the song. I think that's pretty clever - whether it was Neil or Chris or Stuart Price.

In the end, it all comes down to personal taste. Price has his faults - I really don't like the decision to overlay the fabulous synth hook on Thursday with Chris's days of the week chant, for example, as I think it destroys the power of the hook - but I think the last two albums have been as good a "one-two" as they've had since Very followed Behaviour.

But I recognise that a boredom factor is likely to play with Price coming back for album number 3. A standalone EP or single would really go some way to generating a little bit of excitement before anticipation of the next album begins in earnest.

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Re: Expectations

#7 Post by Bulldog » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 1:40 pm

Well, doing a kickass dance album was quite necessary after Yes, TMIT and Elysium. Yet, to stretch that direction across two or three albums you'd really need a different approach on every "chapter", but from the point of view of a fan it's hard to tell what's left to explore with SP. Did he ever use orchestra, for instance?
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Re: Expectations

#8 Post by Drico One » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 2:58 pm

That's a bit like asking "did he ever use spoons?" I just don't see the relevance. If ever there was an "approach" that's been overused by Pet Shop Boys, it's the time-honoured "synth with strings" trope. Other than the bathhouse choir, I can't think of a more obvious PSB soundscape than the "orchestral" accompaniment. Frankly, it's been done to death and, at this stage, serves only to please Neil's sense of pretension and keep Richard Niles in a job.

To beat Stuart Price up for being "samey" - which I think you are suggesting (correct me if I'm wrong) - is a little unfair if, at the same time, you are bigging up Trevor Horn who's made a career out of being OTT and little else or suggesting they should go orchestral next time (after Morricone, Badalamenti, I don't know what you want but I can't give it any more, Fundamental, Concrete, the Dresdner Sinfoniker, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, and Sven Helbig).

I'm not really wedded to any particular producer for the next album, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Stuart Price third instalment doesn't actually happen. He may be involved in the next album, but do we have any indication it'll be specifically him and him alone on production duties? It seems to have gone quiet on that front in recent times.

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Re: Expectations

#9 Post by jamie1978 » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 3:15 pm

Apologies for interrupting your discussion but I agree with Drico.

Who gives a f*** if they use an orchestra or not. I just want killer songs, well produced and faithful to their electronic roots. Electric and Super are right up there with the classics, particularly Electric which for me is better than anything bar Please and Behaviour - high praise indeed.

Much of the production on Super is exceptional. Burn in particular is a work of production art. 'Into thin air' is weak, but there's a poor track on every PSB album, and that has nothing to do with Price.

I hope they continue working with price for more than just a third album. He brings something to their work which they themselves somehow lost - vitality.

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Re: Expectations

#10 Post by York Minster » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 4:14 pm

Electric renewed my faith in PSB, and Super dropped it from a cliff. Some of the blame on Super must go to Neil/Chris rather than Price. Drico compares Axis and Inner Sanctum. For me, no comparison. Axis is a heady rush. Inner Sanctum plods along for what seems much too long. Undertow is very weak in my view, the lyrics and simplistic melody cringey. The instrumental opener that promises so much does not deliver on its promise. Burn feels half-baked. An attempt at euphoria that never really gets there. The less said about Pazzo! the better. It makes Shouting in the Evening, Electric's least essential track, seem like a masterwork.

On sound/production, Electric is an album to get lost in all the chunky squiggly techno landscape. Super is an album to try to figure out a way on the equalizer to make it not sound so thin and boring.

Super fails to "create a world" in the way that flawed albums like Bilingual and Nightlife did in the past. It doesn't stand for much, and doesn't ask to be listened to much either.

At least In Bits didn't make the album.
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Re: Expectations

#11 Post by joe stalin » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 4:47 pm

interesting debate. I respect what SP has done for the PSB. He's given a struggling patient a well needed shot of energy

The thing is. It doesn't matter at all what the psb produce. Nobody cares (except for us and a few renegade DJ's).

Their dye is well cast. They could produce another west end girls and it wouldn't get airplay. They could produce another Please and it would only sell 5k copies.

Hence I'm happy as long as they continue to produce anything. As long as they can continue to tour and put out lovely songs like 'odd man out' and 'robot world' then anything else is great.

It was a while back that Terry Wogan directly asked Neil why they didn't just give up. Since then we've had some great stuff. I hope they continue to do whatever they want to do and ignore all the naysayers.

With SP or without. I don't care

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Re: Expectations

#12 Post by Future Lover » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 5:00 pm

I adore what Stuart did with them and Madonna, he really needs some great songwriters to vibe off with. His production is stellar, and gigantic in a way not many other people can achieve. "Electric" is, of course, the better of the two SP albums, and for the third one, I want really dark masterpieces such as "The dictator decides". Even "Sad robot world" was amazing in its Kraftwerkness.

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Re: Expectations

#13 Post by Dog » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 7:26 pm

Price is pretty flexible though. If they decide to do their dark techno album he can certainly do darker, harder and faster. Check out his Tracques Volume One album from 2013 for example. And if they go poppier he’s already cut his teeth on Take That, Kylie and Madonna. Everything Everything’s Get To Heaven from 2013 showed he can still sound fresh and new as well.
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Re: Expectations

#14 Post by Disco. » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 9:26 pm

We should just be happy that hey continue to release album, they could go down the Duran Duran route, they have released one album in 7 years, they clearly don't care about recording new stuff, but only concentrate on touring, where the money obviously lies. PSB could do the same if they wanted to, and just make a lot of money.

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Re: Expectations

#15 Post by nickname » Sat 17 Mar 2018, 10:11 pm

joe stalin wrote:
Sat 17 Mar 2018, 4:47 pm
It was a while back that Terry Wogan directly asked Neil why they didn't just give up.
Really?

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