Pet Shop Boys
1991: EMI CDP-7-97097-2
For some reason Ive never gotten into the Pet Shop Boys sound. Something about itmaybe Neil Tennants nasality, maybe the overkill of electronica, maybe too much deadpan campinesshas always made me slightly uncomfortable with it. Adding this compilation to my library in mid-2008 took some effort, but there were three tracks I really did want badly. The rest I shall ignore.
West End Girls is a magical snapshot of early-1980s London taken with cinematic lens the shifting synth chords at the beginning and ending mesmerize me in a way much like the record-shop scene of Parting Glances does (although its Bronski Beats Love and Money playing in that case) or the soundtrack of the 1985 West German film WestlerEast of the Wall.. Theres a sort of dangerous, shadowy metropolitan gay world lurking among those chords and in the choruses conclusions with those iconic bass-synth notes. That the verses are essentially rapped doesnt even faze me (although the lyrics really dont say anything, come to think of it) but again Tennants voice and the absurdity of trying to take his hissy esses seriously does.
I only heard What Have I Done to Deserve This? peripherally some years after its release, and not being British I was only distantly familiar with Dusty Springfields voice and fame, so it didnt quite register as a likeable track, for me. The choruss conclusion, as with West End Girls, has a superb hook made even stronger by the gorgeous pairing of Springfields voice with Tennants on those dreamy harmonic thirds atop a deep and dark resolution pattern. If Id seen the video for it back then I would have probably reacted differently to Annie Lennoxs Divaboth the album cover and the videos for Why and The Giftas shes in a showgirl costume of the same design as those worn in this songs video (which is a pretty good video, by the way, although Springfield looks more mid-80s than even Tennants hairdo).
Those were the two tracks I wanted for specific sonic/musical mood and evocation; Being Boring snuck in the door while I was indulging in them, sweet-talking its way in via its Bruce-Weber-filmed video. The combination of the lyrics and their inferences as embodied in the video makes me cry when I listen to this song, whereas with the Deadbeat Club B-52s video I merely get wistful and bittersweet. I think thats because the latter is nostalgic but the former is heavy with the sense of both rarity and loss. But its best line, its most magical and crucial element, really, is the phrase I bolted through a closing door. That is a superb allegorical dagger.
Comments © 2008 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.