merry christmas from chris and neil…

“It’s something
That look in your eyes tonight
Like magic
it’s changing everything in sight
I hear it
all around me every day
in the music that you play”

The new EP from the Pet Shop Boys is out tomorrow via Astralwerks. I can hardly wait! To celebrate the release, Parlophone presents with a promotional video of All Over The World with footage from the recent Pandemonium tour. A brilliant song from a brilliant record. Enjoy!

the classics – mansun

It’s been a while since I posted a classics feature. So many bands that have come and gone that left an indelible imprint of my musical upbringing and for that I simply cannot thank them enough. One such band was Chester, England’s Mansun. Named after A Man Called Sun, a b-side by the one and only Verve, Mansun formed in 1995 and hit the ground running with early singles such as Take It Easy Chicken, Skin Up Pin Up and Stripper Vicar. Parlphone/EMI were smitten over the band and it wasn’t long before the foursome comprised of Paul Draper (vocals, guitar), Dominic Chad (guitar, backing vox), Stove King (bass) and Andie Rathbone (drums) became part of the post-Britpop landscape. 

1997 would bring about the release of Attack Of The Grey Lantern, the band’s debut record, most successful and arguably their finest hour. It was their first and only UK Number One record and included their biggest hit Wide Open Space. A fine slice of brilliance that simmers and explodes just like any pop song worth its salt will do. The single made a brief dent across the pond Stateside while being placed on medium rotation on MTV. The record itself was a wonderful blend of Aladdin Sane-era Bowie, a bit of Suede and a dollop of new wave.  It was a crowning achievement indeed and the band was truly in the ascendant. The band would also make an appearance on the Blade soundtrack with a blistering remix of Skin Up Pin Up done by Manchester dance pioneers 808 State. 

 

A banner year in 1997 gave way to 1998 and another record, Six. A shift in direction from its predecessor found the band venturing into longer songs and the record reflecting a bit more of a thematic quality than AOTGL. The record peaked at #6 in the UK but didn’t even register a second look in the US charts. Personally I thought this was due to a botch job by Epic resulting in a release date six months following the UK, a horrible artwork change and a needless revision of the tracklisting. The songs found herein were less immediate as a whole, a lot more adventurous which quute possibly left a lot of fans a bit puzzled upon its release. There were nuggets to be found here that definitely help to recommend Six including the singles Six, Being A Girl, and my personal favourite, the immaculate Legacy

 

Sadly came the year 2000…and Little Kix, the final Mansun record. The record eschewed Six’s prog sound and took on a more commercial, more blue-eyed soul direction. Leadoff single I Can Only Disappoint You gave us a preview of the new direction with a stirring effect. Gentle, melodic, more sparse but still retaining the qualities that made Mansun a band still on the rise but alas pressure from the record company resulting in Draper’s removal from the producer’s chair, forced revisions of song lyrics and singles to be released that were meant to be album tracks all took their toll on the band like they do so many others leading to squabbles within the band. None of this helped the record any as it peaked at #12 in the UK, their lowest placing yet and the album did not bother the charts very long after its release. 

Tensions finally came to a head in 2003 and the band dissolved their union. A rabid fanbase left heartbroken and it’s safe to say they left a small mark in the UK landscape yet were capable of much, much more. In 2004, after successful petitioning by the fans (yours truly included), Parlophone would release Kleptomania which was to be the band’s fourth record. It became a box set including the songs that were to be on the record, a compilation of non-album singles and rarities.  

Today, Paul Draper is still making music and is reported to be working on a solo record. Very little is known about the exploits of the remaining band members. Here is one humble blogger’s hope that one day the four will find a way to shake off the animosity that halted their friendship and reunite and finish what they started and should have achieved. The band simply had the goods.

 

in the limelight – pet shop boys

 

Yes
Pet Shop Boys
Parlophone/Astralwerks
US Release Date 21 April 2009

You’d think I’d have posted about them enough times on this blog. Hey guess what! The Pet Shop Boys have a new record coming out and I hear it’s bloody fantastic! Actually I can’t refer to them as the Pet Shop Boys anymore, can I? Rumour has it that they were going to switch their name to the Rescue Shelter Boys at the request of PETA.  Kind of puts a crimp on the US release, now doesn’t it? At any rate, Love Etc is number two on the Billboard US Dance Chart while Yes in the UK debuted at #4 on the album charts. That said, the question remains… After all the hubbub and posting and praise, is the new Pet Shop Boys any good? 
1. Love Etc 3.33

The record starts off with a bang with the first single. I think you all know how I feel about this track but in case this is the first time here I will try to keep it brief. The song is simply one of the best songs the PSB have written. Why? There are hooks everywhere. From the whimsical verses to the call and response chorus. You don’t just like the song. You fall victim to it. Simply as close to a perfect pop song as you can get from a band who is as good as anybody at writing them.
2. All Over The World 3.51

If you’re going to follow up a stunner like Love Etc, it had better bring the force with it. They don’t come much harder than All Over The World. Oh, those handclaps and the majestic lead segueing into the verses that fill my heart with glee! The song itself is a call to arms, a call to stop what you’re doing, to stop hating and stressing and simply celebrate. Only Neil Tennant can get away with writing a song this jubilant that doesn’t fall into the depths of melted Velveeta and only Chris Lowe can add the proper punctuation mark.
3. Beautiful People 3.42

A bit of a change of pace and a bit of a nod to Release where the Boys got their Britpop on. The unofficial third Pet Shop Boy and new wave/indie guitar deity, Johnny Marr, is back and adds his ax and harmonica talents to a swinging track that sounds like it could have been written in the 1960s and sung by the Walker Brothers or to a lesser degree, performed by the Last Shadow Puppets. Here we have Tennant wishing aloud that he could be someone different with a more exciting life or a life vastly different than the one he has now. I don’t know about you but I will gladly trade places with him any day…
4. Did You See Me Coming? 3.43

With a gentle strum of the guitar by Mr. Marr, we then fast-forward to a mid-tempo stunner. A personal highlight of the record. DYSMC  is simply a classic pop song. An arresting pop song that reminds you of the highs found on the classic Very. This is simply a song that dares you to sit still while listening. It won’t be long before you’re up dancing and swaying your arms in the air in glee. This song begs to be a single.
5.  Vulnerable 4.51

“You know I can’t ever bear to seem weak or have any doubts. That’s just my technique. I put in the hours, at least I don’t shirk A little bravado does much of the work”. Another lyrical gem from one of the best lyricists in pop music within the last 30 years. A mid-tempo ballad where the guard is let down and Neil lays it on the line. No more games. No more pretense. Here he is…come and get him! The most stripped down song on record with a steady motorik beat and some simple strumming from Marr. This is Neil’s show and Chris drops the beat and simply gets out of the way. 
6. More Than A Dream 4.59

Or more simply the sound of being at peace and feeling completely immersed in the music on the dance floor. HI-NRG lite here. A straight-ahead dance number which drives home the point of the record to this point. This is an upbeat record where the PSB are reclaiming the title of being pop songwriters extraordinaire. George Michael should be doing a facepalm right about…now. He used to write this type of song in his sleep.
7. Building A Wall 3.50

What? What’s this? A vocal cameo from Chris Lowe? It simply cannot be! We’ve got a bit of a political anthem on BAW continuing a trend started on the previous record, Fundamental, with a track like Integral. Much like Integral, BAW doesn’t fall into the trap of being agit-prop but it does get the point across as you’re being seduced by the melody. Not a stunner like many of the songs preceding it on the record but not a clunker by any stretch either. Think of it as somewhat of a breather before the slap you’re about to receive a little later. 
8. King Of Rome 5.31

Slow song alert! Lovelorn and wide-eyed. Neil is in a contemplative state of mind and the backdrop simply serves as a guide as he wishes and pleads for the return of his dearest one and a return to the way things were. A solid, solemn piece that sets you up for…
9. Pandemonium 3.46

Aptly titled. Another one from the PSB template that no other band can match. The straightforward, head down, gate-crashing pop anthem. They take another page from the Very playbook here and once again come up aces with another single-worthy track. Word is this was written for Kylie Minogue to record but she never got back to them whether she wanted it or not. Her loss. She could use this song right about now. No matter. Her version would have fallen way short of the majesty of the PSB version we have here.
10. The Way It Used To Be 4.46

or a reminder that almost twenty years later, Behaviour, really is a classic record. The penultimate track on the record is also the finest. So sad. So cloaked in despair. So entrancing. So irresistable. To put it simply, Neil and Chris take no prisoners here. Neil with all the desperation he can muster in his voice soars and Chris once again sets the stage by leaving no frills and letting Neil have the floor as he tries to come to grips with a relationship past its crisis point and well on its way to crumbling at his feet. Have you ever felt like dancing simply because sitting down was too painful as it allowed your brain to replay all the memories you can’t repress fast enough? This is your soundtrack.
11. Legacy 6.21

“That Carphone Warehouse boy has been on the phone – He wants to upgrade the mobile you own – Have you realised your computer’s a spy?” The record comes to a close with a comment on the hysteria and paranoia we’ve been subject to and are guilty of falling prey to as a society. The highlight here is the middle eight section with a little pomp and circumstance thrown in for effect as Neil sings a bit of French for our ears. 
It must be said that the MVP of Yes is Xenomania, the producers of the record led by Brian Higgins. What they did here was not so much infuse their style on Neil and Chris but become the perfect foil by bringing back the essence and strength of what made the PSB the pop icons they are. By mining bits and pieces of the past triumphs and adding a new pop sheen over it, we bear witness to a match made in pop heaven. What’s more astounding is the balance that is kept. The record is very poppy but doesn’t feel like it. It simply sounds like a PSB record or even better yet, a greatest hits record made up of songs you hadn’t heard but still feel familiar because the footprints of the classic PSB catalogue are sprinkled throughout making it perfect for old fans to reaffirm their love for the band and for new fans to see why the eighties were the last essential decade for musical innovation and evolution and no one else has done a better job of remaining as relevant and the chamelonic ability to change with the times as Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. 
This just might be their best record they’ve ever done.





yes. this is the real deal right here…

Apparently someone called the cops and Youtube had to take down the link for the brand spankin’ new Pet Shop Boys single Love Etc. I was pretty bummed. I took some good natured ribbing but I have prevailed! Friends, below is the song in all its glory. A rip-roaring, whimsical tune that is less Xenomania-influenced than one would guess considering the collaborator. In it, our dear boy Neil tells us what’s really important in life. Not the car, the big house or being a big star. You need more…you need love.

I think we’ve all felt that way from time to time…

“Love Etc” by the Pet Shop Boys, taken from the forthcoming Parlophone release, “Yes”

yes. there’s more.

Yes. I approve. May I present the cover for the forthcoming Pet Shop Boys record simply titled Yes. True to the PSB style and once again designed by Mark Farrow. A multi-coloured check in a white box. No frills. No fuss. What do we think, ladies and gentlemen? Yay or nay? 

A US release date still has not been determined as yet. The record is released in the UK 23 March on Parlophone.

yes…there’s more!

It’s official! I know I posted stuff yesterday about the new PSB record, Yes, but now Parlophone has sent out the official press release. So here it goes taken straight from petshopboys.co.uk”

“IN THE POP COLLABORATION OF THE YEAR, PET SHOP BOYS TEAM UP WITH PRODUCERS XENOMANIA FOR THEIR NEW STUDIO ALBUM “YES” WHICH WILL BE RELEASED ON PARLOPHONE ON MARCH 23. 

THE SINGLE “LOVE ETC” IS RELEASED ON MARCH 16. 

 

In what is surely the pop collaboration of 2009, PET SHOP BOYS have teamed up with the hit production team Xenomania (Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Gabriella Cilmi etc) for their new studio album, “Yes”, which will be released on March 23rd. 

Pet Shop Boys, who will receive the Outstanding Contribution To Music award at this years Brit Awards on February 18th, co-wrote three of the eleven new tracks on the album with Xenomania. The other tracks were written by Tennant/Lowe with a little assistance from Tchaikovsky on “All Over the world”. The album was produced by Brian Higgins/Xenomania. ”

If that’s not cool enough, the one and only Johnny Marr (yes, THAT Johnny Marr) is reported to be featured on several tracks on the new record. This collaboration shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Johnny worked with the boys previously on the records,  Behaviour as well as the more recent Release and most notably the supergroup, Electronic.  From the sounds of it, this is shaping up to be a potentially classic record from the boys. I can’t wait to get my evil hands on Love Etc!

yes!!!

 

…is the title of the new record by the almighty Pet Shop Boys! Produced by Xenomania (this generation’s Stock/Aitken/Waterman?) , this very well could be the Boys’ most accessible set yet! The record is due out 23 March via Parlophone/EMI in the UK. As yet there is no word on the USA release date but I’m sure that is forthcoming! The tracklisting is as follows:

1. Love etc. 

2. All over the world 

3. Beautiful people 

4. Did you see me coming? 

5. Vulnerable 

6. More than a dream 

7. Building a wall 

8. King of Rome 

9. Pandemonium 

10. The way it used to be 

11. Legacy 

Love Etc is slated to be the leadoff single from Yes and I’m sure in true PSB fashion, it will be brilliant! You better believe I’ll keep you guys posted!