The Pet Shop Boys’ tenth studio album Yes was their best since 1990’s Behaviour, itself one of the finest records of that decade.
No-one does intelligent pop better than the Pet Shop Boys, and Yes was their poppiest album since 1993’s Very.
In fact, Yes was, ahem, very Pet Shop Boys. Never mind Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat, on the anthemic recent single All Over The World, they actually (see what I’ve done there) mixed rave bleeps with a Tchaikovsky sample. Very Pet Shop Boys, indeed, but then that’s the essence of PSB isn’t it?
When Neil Tennant’s clever, cultured approach collides with Chris Lowe’s love of the dancefloor, it creates the wittiest pop songs since The Smiths. The Queen is Dead meets queens of pop, if you like.
Which brings us neatly to Johnny Marr, who famously years ago described himself as, ‘the Carlos Alomar of the Pet Shop Boys’. He cropped up playing guitar and harmonica on several tunes from Yes – the ‘60s psyche-pop of Beautiful People (Mamas and Papas doing the theme from Midnight Cowboy, anyone?), the jangly riff on Did You See Me Coming?, which must (J Arthur) rank alongside Love Comes Quickly and So Hard as one of the best PSB innuendoes yet, and the HI-NRG Pandemonium – originally written for Kylie and based on Kate Moss and Pete Doherty’s stormy affair, it was the perfect mix of PSB, Stock, Aitken & Waterman and Motown.
Bolstering the PSB’s indie credibility was Owen Pallet, string arranger for Arcade Fire and Last Shadow Puppets, who worked his orchestral magic on Beautiful People and the epic Legacy – a grandiose closer that was inspired by Tony Blair’s departure and featured techno noodlings and a bizarre rant about a Carphone Warehouse salesman.
The largely commercial, chart-friendly sound of Yes wasn’t surprising, considering it was produced by Girls Aloud hit maker Brian Higgins/Xenomania, who also co-wrote three of the songs.
My own personal highlight, the moody The Way It Used To Be, is easily one of the greatest songs in the PSB’s vast canon of work. A melancholy tale of love gone wrong, it sounded like it could have come off Abba’s The Visitors album, albeit with a New York house music makeover.
PSB meets Girls Aloud? Ooh, it’s like The Sound of The Underground – the London Underground. That’ll be West End Girls Aloud, then.