pet shop boys

Showing 22 posts tagged pet shop boys

Track

Viva La Vida / Domino Dancing

Artist

Pet Shop Boys

Album

Christmas

This is a cover of “Viva La Vida” by Pet Shop Boys, including elements of their own “Domino Dancing”. It is very close to being my preferred version of the song, primarily because of how well Pet Shop Boys build up the drop of “oh oh whoa oh” to make it even more of a euphoric moment.

This Pitchfork column has a killer final paragraph on Pet Shop Boys’ version, suggesting that putting “Viva La Vida” and “Domino Dancing” together was particularly appropriate as “Domino Dancing” marked the end of Pet Shop Boys’ ‘imperial phase’, the point at which they no longer ruled the (UK pop) world. If Coldplay had an imperial phase before this point, it was from “Yellow” to “Clocks”, and it’s tempting to think that the interpretation of the the song as being about the end of a pop empire was there all along. 

Not that Pet Shop Boys are arbiters of all pop music or anything but, well, I think the difference between their respectful take on “Viva La Vida” and their previous need to undercut “Where the Streets Have No Name” says something in the face of Coldplay-U2 comparisons.

This version of the same song by Younha is good too.

One last word about the gay thing.

Earlier this summer I read See A Little Light, the new memoir by Husker Du/Sugar frontman turned bear DJ Bob Mould.  Mould was the first openly gay male musician I was aware of, I think, or at least the first cool one.  (I loved “The Crying Game,” but didn’t particularly identify with Boy George…) 

Mould came out publicly in 1994, the same year Neil Tennant did, and I remember an MTV News report where he explained that he didn’t  want to be stereotyped because he didn’t really identify with gay stuff.  The sexual urges are unrelated to the music, he said.  It was a really life-changing interview to me as a teenager, which is kind of funny since I had never actually know any of Mould’s music before.  But for years and years I insisted that I didn’t “act gay,” and that there was no link between my attraction to men and my undying love for Madonna (for instance.)

Gay musicians, or at least most of the good ones, tend not to think of themselves as gay musicians.  They are musicians and they are gay.  Two different things.  Neil Tennant, like Bob Mould, had said in interviews that he wants people to like his songs because they’re good songs, not because they’re gay songs.  He’s also said that he thinks it’s a little pretentious for musicians to present themselves as role models, and has had minor tiffs here and there about it in the British press with Jimmy Somerville and Erasure’s Andy Bell.

I have an unpublished essay somewhere on this hard drive about the concept of musical duos and about the homoerotics of male duos and more specifically the national identities of homoerotic pop groups.  (As I type this I realize that sounds pretentious and probably horrible.)  But think about it.  Majorly successful British male pop duos:  The Pet Shop Boys.  Erasure.  Wham!  Majorly successful American pop duos:  Simon and Garfunkel.  Hall and Oates.  Outkast.  There is a trend here.

Originally, the plan was to write about the Pet Shop Boys next week, but the schedule got bumped around a little bit.  Which is fortuitious, because it was on August 19, 1981 that Tennant and Lowe first met.  That’s thirty years ago today!  This is a big day, and we didn’t even plan it that way.

The first (and thusfar only) time I saw the Pet Shop Boys live was in Boston in 2009, at the House of Blues stop on the Pandemonium tour.  It’s an iffy venue—John Parish and PJ Harvey were really good there a few weeks prior, but the sound there’s not always the best and there’s always an overabundance of thuggish security people telling you not to stand wherever it is you’re standing.  I went to the PSB show alone and finagled my way up pretty close to the front, where I was surrounded by the uber-fans.  (In fact whoever shot this video was standing basically right next to me, judging from the angle.)  This was the show with the boxes, and the dancers with boxes for heads, and Chris was wearing this fabulous deconstructed discoball jacket that probably weighed thirty pounds.  The crowd was roughly 90% male, I’m guessing roughly 90% gay, and I was definitely one of the younger attendees.  When they did “King’s Cross” an absurdly hunky man with a walrus moustache started crying, and, although this might sound kind of odd, it’s kind of the thing that made me realize how great the concert was.

The show was a mix of old hits (“Domino Dancing,” “Suburbia,” “West End Girls”) and stuff off the Yes album, which had come out earlier in the year.  “Love Etc.”, the first single and probably their best song of this millennium, was of course a major highlight, and even some of the less majestic numbers like “Did You See Me Coming” and a “All Over The World/Se a vida e” medley were pretty great in a live setting. 

Track

Mein Teil (You Are What You Eat Edit)

Artist

Rammstein

Album

Mein Teil

Oh, Rammstein.  What nice young German boys.

Six years after the German sextet had a runaway American rock hit with “Du Hast,” the group put out their fourth album, Reise, Reise which translated basically means Journey, Journey.  Lead single “Mein Teil" centered on the notorious case of Armin Meiwes, a computer technician who posted an ad on the internet looking for someone to slaughter.  Someone responded, the two men met.  They severed the other man’s dick and ate it together, and then Meiwes proceeded to kill the guy and eat his remains.

I’m not sure at all how it came to be that the Pet Shop Boys put out not one but two remixes of this song, and the internet isn’t very forthcoming with information.  You’d think something this odd would be simply commercially motivated, as I can’t imagine either of the two groups being particularly insistent on working with the other one.  On the other hand, Tennant and Lowe have been very picky over the years in terms of what songs they remix.  Starting with their remix of Blur’s “Girls And Boys” in 1994, they’ve really only released a handful of remixes:  a Yoko Ono song here, a Killers number there…

There are two different PSB reworks of “Mein Teil” on the CD single.  The seven-minute There Are No Guitars On This Mix version tries a little to hard to make the song something it’s not, but the roughly four-minute You Are What You Eat edit, which does have guitars, is really quite good. 

The 12 Best Titles of Pet Shop Boys B-Sides

1. The Boy Who Couldn’t Keep His Clothes On
2. I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)
3. How I Learned To Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll
4. We All Feel Better In The Dark
5. The Truck Driver And His Mate
6. Sexy Northerner
7. The Former Enfant Terrible
8. Miserablism
9. The Sound of the Atom Splitting
10. I Want A Dog
11. A Man Could Get Arrested
12. Disco Potential

Critics weren’t as into Nightlife as previous Pet Shop Boys albums.  Pitchfork’s Paul Cooper, in his 3.2 review, particularly singles out “New York City Boy,” the album’s second single and a song I still hum merrily to myself on those three or four occasions a year when I’m lucky enough to find myself in the Big Apple:

Superficially, the track is a sort of coming home song and a reply to the Boys’ version of the Village People’s “Go West.” But, taking a second to examine “New York City Boy” (for that’s all you’ll need), you’ll soon realize that it’s actually just a blatant rip off of that song. The track boasts a chantably identical chorus in addition to the same massed choir belting out the song in the worst Andrew Lloyd Webber fashion. Tennant barely makes an appearance; I hope that his decision to cop out of vocal duties was prompted by his shame and putting his band’s name to such goop.

Goop?  Well I never.  He also calls out some of the song’s lyrics, suggesting that the line about feeling the deal is real is gag-worthy.

"New York City Boy" is actually quite polarizing, for some reason.  The biggest Pet Shop Boys fan I know hates it now, though at the time of its release the song spent nine weeks at number one on his personal weekly favorite songs list.  (I am not the only one who does these things.)  And other fans I know really can’t stand it, either.

But I like it, I really do.  I actually think it’s one of the all-time great New York songs, along with “Manhattan,” “New York’s A Lonely Town,” “New York At Night" and "What New York Used To Be.”  What Cooper calls a blatant “Go West” ripoff is actually, I think, just another disco-inspired anthem with a male choir.  And really, that is not a bad thing.

Lyrically, “New York City Boy” is a celebration of the teenaged moments when you first take adult steps into the world.  There’s lyrics are extremely hopeful, an unusual thing for Tennant lyrics. 

(Interestingly, though, 7th Avenue meets Broadway in Times Square, right where MTV put their big street-facing studio in 1998.  For decades the area was widely known for its abundance of seedy porn theaters, but by Nightlife’s release in 1999 the area had been totally “cleaned up.”  So, depending on when the song takes place, the kid’s running to the city to either get a handjob or to sit in the TRL audience.  I like to think both.)