Wednesday, February 22, 2006

My Pet Albums

I’ve decided to rank the albums of Pet Shop Boys, one of my all-time favorite acts. Excluding compilation albums (their greatest hits and their remixes, such as the “Disco” series and “Alternative”), I’ve whittled down their albums to eight. Please note that I’ve ranked them as a listener, not as a music critic. Thus, the ranking:

# 8
Introspective (1988)
It is an album of dance tracks, all clocking in at more than 5 minutes long per track. Introspective’s songs have that throw-away quality of music meant more for dancing, not listening. Stand-out tracks: “Left To My Own Devices” / “I Want A Dog” / “Always On My Mind/In My House”

# 7
Please (1986)
The very first album is quite lightweight and flippant in tone. The Boys seem to revel in being snide and ambiguous, so their songs also come out as non-committal. Stand-out tracks: “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” / “Love Comes Quickly”

# 6
Actually (1987)
Kudos to the Boys for their brilliant use of Dusty Springfield in “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” On their third album, the Boys are learning to put more weight into their songs. Stand-out tracks: “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” / “Rent”

# 5
Nightlife (1999)
Two of their longest-titled songs are in this album. Here the Boys seem to be at their bleakest, and despite their jaunty ode to The Village People, “New York City Boy” most of their songs speak about betrayal and uncertainty. And for the first time after years of winks, hints and allegations, the word “gay” appears in their lyrics, in the Broadway-ready tune “In Denial” featuring—what else?—a gay icon herself, Kyle Minogue. Stand-out tracks: “I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Anymore” / “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” / “In Denial”

# 4
Bilingual (1996)
Honestly, I had a hard time deciding between Nightlife and this album. Both are uneven, but in the songs that work the Boys show that they’re in great form lyrically and musically. The only difference is the over-all tone: the former album is more pessimistic while Bilingual (released earlier) is a whole lot happier and festive. They should have subtitled it, “PBS goes Ibiza” thanks to the Latin-inspired beats in several songs. Stand-out tracks: “Discoteca” / “Single” / “Before”

# 3
Behaviour (1990)
The Boys exhibit a serious, non-ironic side for the very first time, and the result is a maturing of their sound and pop persona. Apparently, the Boys want to be taken seriously, thus the song “How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?” The album is also one of their most cohesive, flowing wonderfully from song to song. Stand-out tracks: “Being Boring” / “To Face The Truth” / “So Hard” / “Jealousy”

# 2
Release (2002)
Their most recent original album shows the Boys coming to terms with the ups and downs of life. Sure, there’s still drama (“Love Is A Catastrophe”) but there’s hope too (“Here”), and the result is a well-balanced album, both musically and thematically. Plus it has an insidiously hilarious “what-if” song that tweaks Eminem, an artist with a homophobic public persona who ironically is also a popular fantasy of many gay men. Stand-out tracks: “Home And Dry” / “The Night I Fell In Love” / “You Choose”

# 1
Very (1993)
Hands down I think this is the Boys’ most accomplished and cohesive album ever. No song is a throw-away. The Boys stretch their musical boundaries yet still make each song flow wonderfully to the next. They even manage to make fun of themselves in “Yesterday When I Was Mad.” And just when you think they’ve pulled off the perfect album, they end it with a head-scratching choice, a remake of the Village People’s “Go West.” But before you can condemn this track as the lone stumbling block, the song magically transforms from a fey tune into an awesome elegy for those fallen by AIDS. It takes a genius to craft something equally campy and solemn, and the Boys pull it off oh so Very well. Stand-out tracks: all of them

P.S. – Depending on my mood, I sometimes skip some songs while listening to Behaviour. But I listen to Release and Very without skipping a track.

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