Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Pet Shop Bore

OK, I admit it, I'm a bit of a music wuss.

Rarely will I go out on a limb and say I like a song unless I know that the people I'm talking about it with will agree with me to some extent. I don't like confrontation, so I guess that's my way of avoiding it when it comes to music - I simply don't talk about it unless I am sure the other person is going to agree with me. I think this feeling of restraint has happened over time. On discovering a song I really REALLY like, I then hear people relentlessly making fun of it. The end result is I clam up, and try to enjoy the music alone, but invariably the comments embed themselves to my memory and then ruin the song for me too.

Am I being silly or too touchy about this? I don't know, but I've always thought that I had a healthy respect for music, no matter what the genre or artist, and even if I don't like it (and say I don't like it) the last thing I would do is make fun of it.

Fortunately, thanks to the relative anonymity of blogland, I have rebuilt some of the damage that's been done over the years, by allowing myself to talk openly about my musical tastes and sporadically mentioning current songs that I've been enjoying, some of which I would never publicly admit to liking for fear of getting jeered at.

Told you I was a wuss!

So with that in mind you can now hear me out about the new Pet Shop Boys album "Fundamental". I've listened to it a couple of times now, and Martha has a copy which I presume she will listen to over the next day or so. I was, in my wussy way, going to wait until I'd got her opinions on the songs before I said anything, but realised that would quite possibly make a difference to my current views of the songs, so I've decided to say what I like about it, what I don't like about it, and why, without any outside views colouring my opinions.

My initial reaction to it yesterday on it's first play was that it was patchy. There are some undeniably terrific tracks here, certainly on a par with songs like "It's a Sin" from way back in their heyday. A complete return to form it is not though, although I sense there are some definite growers. Stand out tracks are "Minimal", "I'm With Stupid", "The Sodom and Gomarrah Show" and "Integral" (which is an absolute thumper of a track).

I'm not a big fan of slow songs, and Fundamental is riddled with them almost to the point of ruining the pace of the whole album. The weakest link is a track called "Luna Park", but songs like "Casanova in Hell" and "Numb" (which is not a PSB song actually) are nice little slow numbers which, after listen number two, I know will grow on me over time. I suspect my initial reaction to the album being patchy will change as a result of this.

Ever present as always in Pet Shop Boys songs are the thoughtful lyrics, which as the critics have said are probably their most political ever, dealing (loosly or directly) with the Bush/Blair relationship ("I'm with Stupid"), immigration ("Indefinite Leave to Remain"), and ID cards ("Integral"). What you're never entirely sure about with the Pet Shop Boys is how direct these references are. The lyrics are always just obscure enough to allow them to fit in with other, non political, scenarios. I've always liked the schizophrenic nature of their work - the song "I Made My Excuses and Left" works equally well for someone who is male, female, straight or gay. The fact that it is written and sung by someone who is gay is the only real reason to assume it's not about a straight male - apart from that it's a completely universal song.

What is, thankfully, missing from Fundamental is the style of song the Pet Shop Boys had seemingly got stuck in a rut with for a number of years - that's to say songs like the Village People anthem "Go West" and the copycat "New York City Boy". I've nothing against these tracks per se, but it had got to the point that every PSB album seemed to have one of these types of song on it, almost as if it was a requirement. It's nice to see they've not fallen into that trap this time around which makes the album sound fresh and different even though it certainly has a much more retro feel to it akin to some of their earlier work. The critics weren't far wrong when they compared this to their previous albums like "Very" and "Behaviour", although I don't think this album hangs together as a whole package quite as well as those two albums.

Overall, it's a good new album from the PSB's, and although there are definite glimpses of brilliance, as a whole it's still not in the same league as their finest moments from back in the 80's and early 90's.

lol, you are funny. You remind me so much of my cousin, she is the same way about music.
My Utopia - I don't mind people hating certain types of music, but if that's the case they need to say something constructive.
If a band's been going as long as PSB, they're bound to put out some good, bad and indifferent stuff. From what I heard on their website, it sounded pretty good. 'I'm with stupid' will always remind me of driving round Moscow - happy memories!
Ann - Actually I'm mostly impressed with the album...it'll take me a few listens to get to grips with it but that's normal for just about everything. It certainly some of the best stuff they've done in a long while.
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