Pet Shop Boys | Fundamental/Further Listening 2005-2007
You don’t get more unlikely pop stars than the Pet Shop Boys. Even when they first arrived on the charts, Neil Tennant was more Basil Fawlty than Simon Le Bon, while Chris Tennant got on with his mannequin impersonation.
Yet, even after 20 years, not much had changed. By 2006 the vocalist’s hair had turned silver and the keyboard player acquired sunglasses and a cap, but ‘Fundamental’ had the duo serving up articulate synth pop as if it were 1986. They even brought in Trevor Horn, who produced some of the ‘80s most overblown hits, to provide the same kitchen sink approach he used on songs like Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ and the Boys’ own ‘Left To My Own Devices’.
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Pet Shop Boys | Release/Further Listening 2001-2004
If ‘Actually’ is the one with all the hits, ‘Introspective’ the one with all the extended dance mixes, ‘Behaviour’ the commercially disappointing masterpiece, and ‘Very’ the one with ‘Go West’ and those pointy orange hats, ‘Release’ is Pet Shop Boys’ “guitar album”.
But, released at the height of nu-metal, this is no attempt by Tennant and Lowe to elbow Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park off the top of the charts. Instead, as to be expected, their elegant eighth studio album subtly incorporates tasteful guitar work courtesy of The Smiths’ Johnny Marr. Regardless of whether he’s strumming an acoustic, laying down atmospheric textures with his effects pedals, or playing a bonafide solo on ‘Birthday Boy’, his contributions never feel like an afterthought.
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Pet Shop Boys | Nightlife/Further Listening 1996-2000
It’s 1999, almost 15 years since your breakout single topped the UK charts. Your highest-charting hit of the decade was a Village People cover version released six years earlier. You’re past 40. What do you do?
Most ageing artists looking for chart redemption wouldn’t release a concept album of songs from the musical they’ve been working on – including one featuring a pre-’Spinning Around’ Kylie Minogue, and another based on a classical piece by the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
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In April, Pet Shop Boys celebrate 30 years since the release of their debut album with a new LP, ‘Super’, followed in the summer by a four-night residency at the Royal Opera House.
The ‘Inner Sanctum’ concert series, which runs from 20 to 23 July 2016, will be staged by long-time Pet Shop Boys designer Es Devlin and choreographer Lynne Page.
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