Monday, July 9, 2018

Pet Shop Boys reissues review

Since Neil Tennant's birthday is July 10, it's a good time to remind fans about Rhino Records' current catalog reissue campaign. Here's a review of the most recent titles and tidbits about the predecessors...

Please; Actually; Introspective
(Rhino/Parlophone/Warner Music Group)

This past spring, the British synth pop duo continued its ongoing Catalogue: 1985-2012 reissue series with the first two albums and EP. Each 2CD set has been newly remastered and sounds better than ever. Second “Further Listening” discs – first released in ’01 - contain a slew of great bonus tracks comprising demos, extended mixes, remixes and more.

These releases really make a strong case for purchasing the physical product since the booklets are filled with photos, overviews of making the album, lyrics, interviews with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe where they go into detail about each song, and detailed credits. There were several fascinating tidbits I never knew about.

For example: the guys or their producers sampled different things to get a certain ambience (a talking calculator, people walking or talking outside the studio; inside a church), why barking dogs and crash sounds reappeared, the fact that they worked with film composer Ennio Morricone and Angelo Badalamenti, many of Tennant’s lyrics subtly touched upon the AIDS crisis, how they nabbed Dusty Springfield as a duet partner, etc.

1986’s Please is highlighted by “West End Girls” and “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” – both U.S. hits - “Love Comes Quickly” and “Suburbia” – additional top 20 charters in the U.K. Disc 2 contains 13 tracks; five were previously unreleased or make their first appearance on CD, with B-side “A Man Could Get Arrested” being a standout.

The following year, saw Actually, containing the international top 10 singles “It’s a Sin,” “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” (with Springfield) and the English hits “Rent” and “Heart.” Among the 14 selections on Disc 2, five are unreleased or appearing for the first time on CD. There are three versions of Always on My Mind” (one of only two Elvis Presley songs Lowe says he likes in the liners): the demo, extended dance and dub mixes. That cover tune and “I Want a Dog” are included here instead of 1988’s Introspective. The rarities disc info points out that they are master quality.

Introspective boasts several U.K. top 10s from 1988-89: “Domino Dancing,” “Left to My Own Devices,” “It’s Alright” and a cover of the Elvis Presley/Willie Nelson popularized “Always on My Mind.” But the meat is in Disc 2, where several strong non-official EP tracks (that could’ve easily made a strong full-length) reside, including the robotic dance of “I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too),” the peppy “Don Juan” (in a previously unreleased on CD demo version that doesn’t sound like a demo) and the rare Chris Lowe vocal on “One of the Crowd.”

Elsewhere, there’s two chilled out takes on “Domino Dancing,” “The Sound of the Atom Splitting,” “What Keeps Mankind Alive,” “Losing My Mind” and “So Sorry, I Said” (eventually done for the PSB-helmed Liza Minelli album; the latter newly mixed for this set), “Nothing Has Been Proved” (an early version which was eventually recorded by Dusty Springfield), the wistful ballad “Your Funny Uncle” (sort of the mirror image of “Being Boring”) and a few more extended mixes.

Other titles in the reissue series out now: Nightlife, Fundamental, Yes and Elysium.

The excellent concept album Nightlife (1999) spawned three top 20 hits in Britain: “I Don’t Know What You Want…,” “You Only Tell Me You Love Me…” and the club banger “New York City Boy.” Kylie Minogue guested on “In Denial.” Disc 2 has 22 bonus tracks, half either previously unreleased or never on CD: “Believe/Song for Guy” with Elton John, “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas” (fan club mix), “Was it Worth It” (live) and the French version of “Paris City Boy.”

The Grammy-nominated Fundamental (2006) saw PSB reteam with longtime collaborator Trevor Horn. There were three top 20 singles in the Boys’ home country: “I’m with Stupid,” “Minimal” and “Dumb.” Disc 2 has 10 unreleased songs, most interestingly ringtones of “Answer the Phone,” “Where are You” and “Water.”

Yes (2009) – produced by Brian Higgins & Xenomania – had guest appearance by Johnny Marr and Owen Pallett. It contained two top 30 charters (we’re still talking England), including “Love, Etc.” and “Did You See Me Coming,” plus 23 tracks on Disc 2. Those are highlighted by “This Used to Be the Future” (with Human League’s Phil Oakey), a BRITS television appearance medley, a cover of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” paired with “Domino Dancing” (done for a Christmas EP), “Night Song” (a fan club download) and demos from My Dad’s a Birdman.

Moving into the current decade, 2012’s Elysium saw the duo still making intriguing music with a “sub bass” sound. Disc 2 has three unreleased tracks.

No comments: