Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pet Shop Boys - Yes (Pt III)

(The third part of a discussion on the new album Yes, among other PSB-related esoterica).

Hey guys -

Until Thomas chimes in, I'll hold back any more thoughts I have about Yes
(needless to say, a LOT of back and forth going on in my brain about it these last couple days, and Alfred makes some good points), but I feel like jumping in here just to clarify my thoughts about the PSB's catalog prior to now, and I invite you both to do the same if so compelled.

The early years are easy to discuss: for regular LPs, I love -- almost unconditionally -- everything up to and including Very. My only slight hedge is with some of the more ornate sections of Behaviour which do drag the thing down just a bit, though the highs on that album are high enough so as to make that feel like mere nitpicking on my part. Alfred mentioned my un-enthusiasm for Bilingual and Nightlife, and it's a fair enough point considering some things I've said about those albums on ILM and elsewhere (second piece I ever wrote for Chuck Eddy in the Voice was a review of Nightlife, which I semi-panned, not very coherently and probably somewhat foolishly), but in general my thoughts on this phase of their career tends to grow more and not less appreciative with the passing of time. I've *always* enjoyed sections of Bilingual, and even at the time I thought it was pounced on unfairly by critics. The Spanish-drum-corps disco stuff works extremely well in spots ("Se a Vida E" is maybe the loosest-sounding single they've ever made, and I don't distrust its exterior sunniness in the slightest), and the CD overall is their boldest -- by which I mean the biggest, brassiest, most in-your-face -- production to date ("expert craftsmanship" goes a long way with me, always has, always will). A few tracks are forgettable but also forgivable in light of the overall approach.

On the other hand, I offer right here right now a big mea culpa for Nightlife, which has grown on me considerably over the years. I re-listened to it again yesterday in fact, and damn if I didn't enjoy almost the entire thing, and yeah, it coheres conceptually -- I mean, I buy that line of reasoning -- for reasons Alfred suggests. (Nice try, though, trying to lure me in with a Greil Marcus quote!). The only real negative for me is "Vampire," which for some reason still makes me recoil -- what an atrocious excuse for a chorus.

I depart somewhat with Alfred on Release: it's by no means a great album, but in terms of songcraft (though definitely not production) I rate its strongest moments -- "Home and Dry," "London," the Eminem tribute, maybe "Samurai in Autumn" -- a little higher than Bilingual's, though yes, the Oasis-Unplugged move was admittedly ill-considered. We definitely depart on Fundamental, which I say with the caveat that it is the album of theirs I have listened to the least, something I hope to correct at some point... if I can ever find my damn copy of the thing. I like "Minimal" a lot, as already noted, and "Psychological" is pretty good as well; not a single other song grabbed me at the time, though the idea behind "I'm With Stupid" was moderately amusing. (Very much dug the post-Astaire top hat look too, btw.)

In regards to non-regular PSB LPs: I liked the first Disco a lot, but I don't find most of those 11-minute workouts very useful anymore and I never listen to it. (A couple years ago, I actually removed "Paninaro" from my iPod, as it just seemed to drag on forever.) I couldn't stand the second *Disco* and may even have traded that CD in. It had shorter mixes, which was a bonus, but every damn one reminded me of David Morales: fraudulent deep-bass/minimalist/whatever jive. (Even at the height of my dance mix/12" singles obsession I never understood the deal with that guy at all... mystifying.) Needless to say, I haven't purchased any future parts of the *Disco* series. Weirdly enough, I totally love Relentless, the bonus ambient-space-house disc that came with early copies of Very, and it's cued in my iPod to listen to on the way to work tomorrow (um, I don't always plan this stuff out). I don't own Discography because I don't feel I really need it, though I'd happily recommend it to any PSB newbie. I own *Alternative* on vinyl, but need to get the CD or download it as I'm not inclined to use my turntable much anymore. I'd say I know half of it fairly well and like most of what I know but probably not to the point of obsession. (I also own all the bonus-cuts discs of the first several albums, and I have never made it through all the second discs. What I love about those, mostly, are the liner notes.)

I LOVE at least half of Liza's Results, and Dusty's "Nothing Has Been Proved" is probably my favourite song by her; i listen to it more than any of her great '60s tunes. (I'm on a first name basis with these dames, as you may have noticed.) Probably some other PSB productions and one-offs I've listened to (and a run-thru of their singles catalog would be a different story entirely), but that seems to cover the main stuff.

Sorry to go on so long with this detour... with any luck, it may add some perspective when I delve a little deeper into the new one.



Edward O said...

I'm really enjoying reading this, guys. I don't like the album very much but it will do its job of being strip-mined for 2 or 3 decent singles. "Did You See Me Coming?" and "More Than A Dream" are my favourites, but my god, "Beautiful People" and "Building A Wall" are terrible. "Pandemonium" is OK but not hi-nrg enough - sounds incredibly cheap! The Oakey song on the bonus disc is very great, though.

M said...

Yes to the liner notes of the 2CD versions. Chris Heath is so great! (Excellent Q&A with Heath at Popmatters, btw, by Scott's colleague Steven Ward.)

smw said...

Yeah, that Heath interview's really good. I should link to it from somewhere. Hmmm, but where....