dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Ten Best Things Pet Shop Boys Released Over The Past Decade

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe kicked off the millennium with "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk," the third and final single off Pet Shop Boys' 1999 album Nightlife. Being a fan of the duo since "West End Girls," I tended to find myself getting increasingly disinterested with their output around that period. The 2002 album Release didn't help matters.

Was the music bad? Was I just finally outgrowing one of my favorite artists since my pre-teen days? Or was I just being cranky?

Whatever the answer is, Nightlife and Release only proved to be minor bumps on the road of classy output from the Boys during the Naughties in my book. So without further ado, I now bring you Chart Rigger's list of The Ten Best Things Pet Shop Boys Released Over The Past Decade!

10. "I'm With Stupid" (single, 2006)

After a four-year break between studio albums for the Boys, the Trevor Horn-produced "I'm With Stupid" was a much-welcomed return to synth-pop awesomeness. Casting Little Britain's Matt Lucas and David Walliams in the video was a nice flourish, too. And while the song's parent album Fundamental never quite lived up to the "former-glory" hype, IWS B-side "The Resurrectionist" proved to be a classy addition to the duo's oeuvre.

9. "Flamboyant" (single, 2004)

This second of two new singles released from the PopArt greatest hits collection perfectly sums up the banal fascination with celebrity culture that has run rampant over the past 10 years. Bonus points for the "Tomcraft Extended Mix," which, like previous single "Miracles" (more on that one to come), kicked off a return to good ol'-fashioned 12"-style mixes for the Boys.

8. Disco 3 (album, 2003)

Not to keep harping on what a downer Release was—but thank God the PSBs offered up this mini collection of remixes, B-sides and original material less than a year after its, uh, release. It's like Neil and Chris suddenly woke up and tapped into the electro-clash fad that had been happening at the time. "Somebody Else's Business" alone makes Disco 3, though "If Looks Could Kill" and Oh Romeo/Bobby O cover "Try It (I'm In Love With A Married Man)" are top notch, as well.

7. Christmas (EP, 2009)

Yes, yes, it's not even out till next week. But we all know what's on it at this point. The "Viva La Vida" cover/mashup with "Domino Dancing" was the euphoric high point of the Boys' Pandemonium Tour Tour this year, and they thankfully obliged fans by recording a studio version of the choon. Kudos for also finally giving "It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas" a proper release—not to mention a bit of a jingly makeover. (Talk about "synthetic fun!") Admittedly, I'm still not totally sold on the re-swizzed "All Over The World" in comparison with the album version, but it's still "A" material when put up against, say, the X Factor Finalists "You Are Not Alone" cover.

The official "All Over The World" video

6. Catalogue (book, 2006)

The year 2006 was a good, if not expensive, period for those yearning for new Pet Shop Boys material—we got Fundamental, live album Concrete, three single releases and Catalogue, which is essentially the PSBs Bible. (There was also Robbie Williams' much-maligned Rudebox, which contains two collaborations with the duo.) It will probably take me at least 10 years to finally finish reading the entire thing, but the photos—every single album and single sleeve, video stills, fan club release, etc., with extensive commentary on each item—sure are purty. A total must for fans.

5. PopArt: The Videos (DVD, 2003)

Way more essential than the PopArt—The Hits double-disc collection of singles is the DVD containing all the music videos. Lest we let the passage of time make us forget, though the Pet Shop Boys were not among the first wave of MTV Generation pop stars, they definitely carved out their own place in all corners of the world during the latter half of the '80s. Passion, love, sex, money, violence, religion, injustice and death—visually Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have covered them all in their 25 years-worth of music vids. Plus, hey, those two guys in "Domino Dancing" still come across as hot today as they did back in '88.

4. "Love etc." (single, 2009)

This was a totally left-field choice for a first single off an album—which is exactly what we needed from the Boys after all these years. Teaming up with Xenomania, and thereby giving up some creative control, was the best thing the duo could have done to stay relevant with tenth studio album Yes. The first time I heard the bouncing "Love etc." was the same day I was let go from my job back in February—two great events occurring within hours of each other!

3. "Miracles" (single, 2003)

What should by all means have been a complete throwaway—one of two new songs tacked onto the PopArt—The Hits collection—turned out to be the Boys' best single of the decade. I was in London the weekend "Miracles" debuted within the U.K. Top 10, which was a sigh of relief after the singles from Release pretty much stiffed on the chart. The PSBs' own cover of My Robot Friend's "We're The Pet Shop Boys" as a B-side was also a stroke of genius. (It was later covered by Robbie Williams and produced by Neil and Chris on Rudebox.) Simple, straight-forward lyrics aside, "Miracles" never ceases to make me happy:

2. Performance (DVD, 2004)

Re-issuing the 1991 Performance Tour on DVD was like dredging up the legendary, majestic lost city of Atlantis. I had a T-shirt from the U.S. leg of the PSBs' trek, which I bought at age 17 from some mail order company back then. (Sadly, the closest they got to Pittsburgh that spring was Washington, D.C.) I'd rattle off a few highlights, but honestly, it's a complete crime to not to watch this concert from start to finish. You'd think this would have been the Boys' peak creative peak, both musically and visually, but Very was yet to come.

1. Yes (album, 2009)

Nearly a year after the release of the Grammy-nominated Yes, the dust has settled. Was it the huge commercial success everyone (fans, the record label, Pet Shop Boys themselves) had been hoping for? Not likely. But was it the album we always kind of knew the duo still had in them after reaching pop perfection in 1993 with Very? Hell yes. "All Over The World," "More Than A Dream," "King Of Rome," "Pandemonium" and "The Way It Used To Be"—as well as singles "Love etc." and "Did You See Me Coming?"—are all up there with the best of the PSBs' catalog. Plus, you know what? Even "Legacy" has grown on me. So bravo, Boys—after almost making me give up hope seven years ago with Release, this particular fan who bought "West End Girls" on 45 at age 12 hereby declares that you've ended the decade on the highest possible note. Carry on.

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  • At 12:19 AM, Blogger daavid said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 12:21 AM, Blogger daavid said…

    As a long time fan of the Pet Shop Boys, I'm sad to say I wasn't exactly thrilled by what they did this decade. My list (singles only) would go:

    5. The Samurai in Autumn
    4. Always
    3. Try It (I'm In Love With A Married Man)
    2. Flamboyant (PopArt version)
    1. Fugitive

  • At 11:20 AM, Blogger Daft Monk said…

    It's been an interesting decade for the Boys as they've done just about everything they've wanted. They staged a musical, gone rock, soundtracked a silent film, launched an album with a video of mice on rail tracks, dropped two amazing singles on a career retrospective, put out their worst album, gone underground and proven they still had a pop masterpiece in them with Yes. Not bad for a band that most Americans wrote off twenty years ago.

  • At 8:04 PM, Blogger Phil said…

    For a band that's nearly 30 years old, they're very prolific. They just don't bloody stop.

    In the PSB world, the biggest difference for them as a band, however, must be how they have become a money-spinning live act. Totally opposite to the studio-based act they started out as.

  • At 7:14 PM, Anonymous NYCB said…

    The Ten Best Things Pet Shop Boys Released Over The Past Decade:

    1. New York City Boy
    2. P... huh? what's that? say what? New York City Boy was released in 1999? Um...

    The Ten Best Things Pet Shop Boys Released Over The Past Decade:

    0. Nada. Zilch.

  • At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Pranav said…

    Surprised that you mentioned "I'm with stupid" (loved the video!!!) but not "Minimal". I thought "Minimal" was the first song by the Pet Shop Boys since "Domino Dancing" that gave me an immense head-rush.

  • At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Ezra said…

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