Sunday, November 05, 2006

che guevara and debussy to a disco beat

Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant have been writing beautifully crafted pop records for over 20 years and this, their newest album, showcases this work perfectly.

This live event was recorded at the Mermaid Theatre in London in May 2006 and was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 2. Recorded with Trevor Horn and the BBC Concert Orchestra, it is a splendid collection of seventeen songs from right across the spectrum of the band's output since 1985.

Opening with the brilliant 1988 single "Left To My Own Devices" the album is an eclectic and unpredictable journey through their career. The version of "Rent" more closely resembles the orchestral Liza Minnelli version than their original single and they produce a moving version of the Dusty Springfield single "Nothing Has Been Proved". The guitars come out for the excellent "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk".

This is the sound of a band with two decades of experience behind them. Confident, prepared to interpret their records and completely comfortable with their performance. Interestingly, the new material from 2006's "Fundamental" album holds up better live than it does on the original record. The haunting "Numb", the tuneful "Luna Park" and the overblown "Sodom and Gomorrah Show" aren't out of place on this collection.

And then, out of the blue, out come some special guests to feature. Frances Barber does a spectacular job of the little-known but brilliant "Friendly Fire" from the "Closer to Heaven" musical. Robbie Williams does a particularly good job of "Jealousy" - the first ever song that Neil and Chris wrote together.

No review of this album would however be complete without the mention of a three minute record that ranks amongst the best things I have heard on any album this year. Taking a little known track from the recent "Fundamental" album, Rufus Wainwright lends his amazing vocal talent to "Casanova in Hell". It is a perfect song for him, and a perfect choice of vocalist for the record. Seriously, I recommend that if you aren't that bothered about the album, you should seek out this little piece of brilliance.

And then, a rousing "West End Girls" finishes off the whole thing.

It's easy for me to recommend this record as I have always liked the Pet Shop Boys. However, live albums aren't always that interesting or listenable. This one, however, is nigh on perfect - indeed I would be tempted to say that it is a better representation of twenty years work than their singles collection. It's a sensational performance with some superb highlights.

2 Discussions:

Blogger bedshaped said...

Well Lord Bargain,
I've never been a fan of The Pet Shop Boys. I know loads of their songs (who doesn't) and find them fine to listen to, but I've never been interested enough to listen to anything other than their single releases.
That said, your remarks have persuaded my curious parts to perk up and take note.
And with that, I'm donwloading the album to listen to.
I'll let you know....

11:41 PM  
Blogger bedshaped said...

Ok, so I've downloaded it, listen to it, twice and enjoyed it.
The introduction was brilliant and it must have been fantastic to have been there to witness that intro.
I liked the guest vocalists, Rufus being particularly brilliant. I couldn't help wishing they'd had snuck an orchestral sample of one of Robbies tracks in the intro to Jealousy, when they introduced him.
Oh well.

I'm afraid it hasn't changed my opinion of the PSB's but it hasn't made me dislike them anymore either, so that's a good thing, no?
I just can't connect with Neil's vocal style. It grinds on me, dunno why?

The little introductions to the songs were a great touch and the whole orchestral arrangements were really, really good.

I have filed this in the 'occasional' folder.

Cheers for the suggestion though. That's what this place is for.

10:20 PM  

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