Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Initial thoughts on Winner B-sides

Following on from the disappointment I felt over Winner, I expected much more from the B-sides. Winner felt so characterless that I couldn't believe it was actually a Pet Shop Boys song so I hoped that they would redeem themselves with its three B-sides. I have to say that from the two different sets of 30 second samples that have leaked for each B-side my initial fears about the album have been eradicated and it looks like Winner was just a blip. I obviously can't post at great deal on three songs when I've only heard aproximentally a minute of each so for now these are just initial sets of thoughts on each

A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi.
I'd initially hoped (and predicted really) that Elysium's lead single would be a very energetic and uptempo dance track, alias that didn't quite work out. With a very slow taster track and a mid-tempo lead single I felt that one of the B-sides simply had to be much more dance floor oriented. A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi most certainly fits that bill! The track sounds incredibly catchy with a really infectious hook, it was written in 2007 initially and worked on again during Yes sessions. Much like their Yes album, its accessible but still undeniably Pet Shop Boys. I really struggle to make out the lyrics of the track though, particularly in the second sample. For now though, this sounds like its going to go right up there with Minimal (in this fan's opinions at least) as being one of their best modern day dance tracks!

The Way Through The Woods
The next B-side is a much more experimental track. It's actually an adaptation of the poem The Way Through the Woods which was written by Rudyard Kipling (author of The Jungle Book). This one originated during the Elysium sessions in LA. I have to say, if the production on Elysium is as good as the production here then working with Andrew Dawson was an inspired choice! The first 30 second sample I heard was purely instrumental and I loved the melody of it, it very much fitted the poem with the bird singing effects and the like. The music reminds me of something you'd get on their ballet soundtrack, The Most Incredible Thing which I think is a definite good thing as I really enjoyed the soundtrack. In the second sample you can get a much better sense of the track though as some of the vocals are in it, and it still sounds like a really interesting track, the sample cuts though just as it seems to get really going, the backing vocals sounded brilliant and then it cuts. Never the less, I read that the poem is essentially about the declining influence of religion, so it will be interesting to see what motivated them to re-adapt it!

I Started A Joke
The last one is a cover version of a Bee Gee's song in tribute to Robin Gibb, who died earlier this year. I've always said that they have this brilliant ability of covering a song and making it sound like they originally done it, and I Starrted A Joke is maybe the finiest example of that. Not long after the B-sides were titled a friend showed me a link of Robin Gibb performing the song (which was beautiful) and its just the sort of song you could imagine them covering. It sounds like something you'd get on Release or Fundamental, but its a beautiful sounding ballad judging by the two samples. I have to give serious credit to Neil for the vocals here, even the two samples seem to suggest that this one of the best vocal performances he's ever given. On that particular note, I think his voice maybe the best its ever been at the moment, as he sounded particularly good at the Wimbledon performance too. It'll be interesting to see where they originally only going to do The Way Through The Woods and A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi as B-sides but then following Robins death add in an extra tribute B-side, or did they substitute I Started A Joke with something else, perhaps even they were planning this cover version all along?

All in all these are shaping up to be three brilliant B-sides and very possibly one of the best overall sets of B-sides that they've done! I think they've summed themselves up brilliantly with these three tracks: an energetic dance track, a more experimental piece and a lovely sounding ballad. Honestly, I think there's something for everyone here. Those who were worried for Elysium on the basis of Winner need not worry I don't think as these B-sides prove they're still as creative as ever!

Elysium interpretations: An update

So, in the last few days obviously the big news is that Elysium covers and track listing have been released, including confirmed release dates. I suppose now is the fun part is dissecting the song titles and hazarding a guess as to what the album will sound like. By their own admission in the latest issue of Literally, they have said that there's elements of each album in the overall sound of Elysium, but the album it has most resonance with is Behavior. I'm excited and intrigued by that as Behavior is my favorite Pet Shop Boys album and if they make an album of similar quality then it could be special. The theme for the album is death, but they've also been quick to stress that its also uplifting. That correlates very well with their interview they did for Format, where Chris says that they always have a vision of making an album with mostly down tempo, melancholy stuff but then they realize that even they couldn't listen to an albums worth of that. I think we can safely say that the album won't be completely dark then. Some of the titles are very interesting, and the first two tracks: Leaving and Invisible, sound like they could tie in together in some way. The final track on the album; the ingeniously named Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin is an "elegy set to disco music" and by Neil's own admission it sounds very beautiful. Its a tribute to a make-up artist, Lynne Easton, who worked with them and died in 2006. Interestingly, two of the tracks of this era were worked on during the Yes era: Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin was actually considered for inclusion on Yes but Brian Higgins (who produced the album) didn't think much of it. The second track was A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi, which is one of the B-sides for Winner which was written in 2007, worked on again during Yes sessions and now is set for release. Neil has also said that one of the tracks on the album doesn't sound too out of place on Please, and another rumor (although this hasn't come from an official source) says that one of the tracks sounds quite Introspective/early 90's Pet Shop Boys. The album draws on inspiration from every album they've ever done, I hope their comment with regards to that wasn't too literal, as their albums are so different from each other that a hybrid of their various sounds on one album would sound messy. The initial reactions to the record though have proved very positive and I think it's looking increasingly likely that Winner will not represent the sound of the record at all. In a way that actually ties back to Behavior really, after all So Hard was its lead single and look how much it stood out on that particular album. Another track that I am particularly looking forward to hear is Ego Music, which contains the chorus "Ego music, its all about me!". Its a classic Pet Shop Boys theme and sounds very blunt, again much like How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously. I was disappointed with Winner but I have to say, Elysium sounds like its going to be very interesting, and I think we could be looking at a potential Pet Shop Boys classic if it lives up to the hype!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Winner (Official Video)

So, in the latest development the video for Winner has now been released. Honestly, I thought Winner was a let-down, but nothing could have prepared me for this one. In fairness, I like the message that the video is trying to convey, it very much reminds of the core theme for Red Letter Day, how ultimately we all want the same things in life. At the very least also, the video is about as far from the conventional Olympics montage (which I personally very much feared the video may be) which you could get. It depicts the story of Dirty Diana, a transgender who is part of a female roller derby team. The team eventually succeed but moreover this particular member also succeeds in being accepted. I can't argue with the fact that not only is that a stark, risky even, angle to take on the theme of victory, but also a very positive message, so kudos for that. Having said that, I have a couple of grievances that really spoils the video and leaves me with an overall feeling of disappointment. First of all, the video is very similar in basic tone to that of She's Madonna, the Robbie Williams collaboration which featured Pet Shop Boys. In She's Madonna, Robbie takes on the role of a man in drag so there's obviously strong links between the two videos. Another link is that Pet Shop Boys didn't feature in that video and here, they are not in the video for a single frame, the first video they've ever made which hasn't featured them at all in some form or another. That's the killer blow for me here; a lead single for their new album, yet they didn't even feature in their own video. I can't help but wonder why that was the case. I have read some things that suggest that Winner wasn't even meant to be the lead single and was changed last minute, having said that there's nothing official confirming that did happen, but if that's the case it may justify the lack of them actually appearing in their own video. Maybe not appearing in the video was some form of retaliation if such a conflict did arise, who knows? This is pure speculation on my part though, so I could be completely wrong. Another big downside is that there are parts of the video were various members of the team talk, but these overdub Neil's actual singing, so you can't actually hear the track properly, which is always a downside for me. It doesn't allow the song to be properly heard, which isn't exactly good promotion, and essential music video's are just a promotion tool really. The video seems to be getting slated by fans even more so than Winner, which wasn't exactly met with the warmest reception either. Its sad to see them get slated so much, but I think the criticism (of the more constructive and rational kind at least) is somewhat justified, its a tame lead single/video by their standards. Now, maybe more so than ever, the B-sides really need to deliver. As for the second single, if it isn't a major return to form (and I really think they need an uptempo track) then I will seriously be worried for Elysium, as much as I hate to say it.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Literally finished so new book!

So I finished Literally, the book chronicling Pet Shop Boys first tour last night. I should have finished it a bit sooner if I'm honest, but a few days here and there of not reading slowed my progress down somewhat. What I won't be finishing anytime soon though is my new book: The authorized biography of The Beatles by Hunter Davies. I'm 50 pages in already, astonishingly enough that's still only the introduction, about another 30 pages to go until I come to the first chapter actually. Never the less though its become already clear that Hunter Davies clearly has a vast knowledge of The Beatles (this book was originally published in the late 60's and has been updated) and their career, and I'm finding it a very interesting read. It will no doubt be a lot to digest though as I'm still researching their music, and other than the very basics that they come from Liverpool, that George and John are dead and so forth, I know little else about them in terms of contextual information. Still, very much looking forward to reading on and discovering more!

Disappointed, once more.

So yesterday I watched the live stream of Pet Shop Boys Afisha Picnic festival which they were headlining. I hate to be so negative, I honestly do, especially when it involves one of my favourite bands, but their performance tonight is just the latest in a string of disappointments in the whole way they have handled the start to their new album era. They just seem like they're lacking in drive or something, I mean we've not actually seen them much at all, and when they do actually perform a concert they perform one from their last tour, which was supposed to be over when they played in Sydney for New Years Eve 2011. The actual show itself is one of the strongest tours they've ever done, and they sounded good today. My gripe though? The fact that there was utterly no change to the set list. At all. The stream quality (for me at least) was utterly poor, it didn't actually start for me when it was the start of their set and as such, I entirely missed Heart and most of Did You See Me Coming. I spent the remainder of the show about three quarters of a song behind my friend who was streaming it as well. Going back to the lack of innovations, It just seems like such a weird thing to do considering the new album is out in just under two months, I mean they didn't even perform Winner live or anything. Basically, I spent an hour and a half watching a low quality stream of a concert that I already own (and it didn't even look so good either because despite them being the last act it was still pretty light, so their elaborate light shows and screens didn't even stand out). The only new part for me (although they did perform it at Sydney) was Together. Considering that is one of my least favourite Pet Shop Boys songs though that offers little in the way of consolation. They didn't have to do anything particularly over the top, but it wouldn't have hurt to have made some change at least. I can't help but feel they've made some very questionable decisions with this era. Personally, I think it feels like they've been very quiet or something and their lead single, Winner was an utter letdown. Its not even a patch on some of their weaker album tracks, let alone their best work (and there really isn't any comparison to their B-sides, most of which surpass the tracks released on their studio albums). Their video premieres tomorrow, yet this hasn't even been mentioned on their official site. Compared with The Killers Battle Born era which is just getting underway at the moment, and it really is a sad state of affairs. With The Killers recent comeback show after their hiatus, you could clearly see a band who were passionate and ready to make their comeback. With Pet Shop Boys in the last few months they seem to be acting like releasing a new album is very matter of fact for them. Which in a way is understandable, they met almost 31 years ago, and in their career together they have built up an impressive and incredibly consistent body of work by anyone's standards. What I find sad though is that unfortunately they do not have that many albums left in them (they both are fast approaching 60 after all). The best they can do is at least put a bit of extra effort in, I mean I know they've been quick to criticise their disregard for promotion in the press, but Winner is completely devoid of just about any creativity and see's them at their most conformist, and coming from two of the most overlooked and creative minds in pop music of the last 30 years (if not of all time), then that's very sad to see indeed. Having finished Literally last night, were I discovered that their record company at the time didn't actually want to release It's Alright (which was released in the end), it struck me that Pet Shop Boys of old would never have been satisfied with Winner. They strike me at the moment as a band who have lost their drive to be different and stand out, the very same drive that resulted in their most accomplished work, and what attracted me to them in the first place.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Killers return!

Every time a new Killers album is announced I do turn rather giddy, childish even with excitement as they were my first serious musical love. With that in mind, I was delighted to wake up this morning to the news that The Killers debuted some more new songs at their somewhat intimate concert last night in Asheville, North Carolina. They performed new single Runaways, The Rising Tide which was first performed live a year ago at Scala in London but the real treat for fans came in the form of Miss Atomic Bomb and Flesh and Bones. Miss Atomic Bomb sounds particularly good but both tracks are very strong I think. Honestly, I am so excited for this album, as each of the songs have impressed me, I think Brandon wasn't exaggerating when he said that Battle Born was their best album yet! A full review of the gig will be in the coming issue of NME magazine which is out Wednesday, July 25 along with an interview with Brandon Flowers. Meanwhile, you can hear the new songs from last nights show by clicking HERE. Their full set list was as follows

Somebody Told Me
Smile Like You Mean It
This Is Your Life
Rising Tide
Miss Atomic Bomb
For Reasons Unknown
A Dustland Fairytale
Read My Mind
Mr Brightside
All These Things That I've Done
Flesh and Bone
Jenny Was A Friend of Mine
When You Were Young

The Killers - Runaways

So after four years since their last album which was entitled Day & Age, The Killers have finally returned from their hiatus with their brand new single. Its been a hectic month for me musically, with the lead singles for both The Killers' Battle Born album and Pet Shop Boys Elysium album being premiered (coincidentally, both albums are due to be released on the same day). Whilst Pet Shop Boys new single was a bit of a letdown I felt, Runaways is everything a lead single should be: its rousing, sounds unmistakably like a Killers song and grabs your attention. I would even go so far as to say it stands up with the best singles The Killers have ever released, if not being one of their best songs overall! After a rather lengthy hiatus they needed a strong song as their comeback and Runaways does that perfectly!  You can definitely hear the influences of Bruce Springsteen on the track also I think, and the opening piano chords and first verse melody also remind me a lot of Brandon Flowers solo record. At first, I thought it would be simplistic as it starts sparingly but it quickly builds and its easy to envisage this becoming a live staple not too far from the ranks of All These Things That I've Done. When the chorus finally kicks in around two minutes in, it just begs to be heard in a live context I feel. What I also personally love is that it mixes the very Americana-influenced Sam's Town sound but also mixes in some synths (and I particularly love the synth work here) which echo's songs like Human and Smile Like You Mean It. The arrangement goes perfectly with the lyrics of the song I think, which depicts a story of love gone wrong. People who are still stuck in their Hot Fuss era and who won't accept any other sound will probably bash the song, although I struggle when you compare Somebody Told Me (even though its somewhat of a modern day classic) to Runaways and it becomes clear that the band have matured tremendously, and in my opinion for the better. The track seems to be getting incredibly positive reviews from critics and fans alike, all of which I feel is thoroughly deserved. If the rest of Battle Born is as strong (and the signs are good so far) then I think we could be looking at the strongest album from The Killers yet!

Thursday, 19 July 2012


So, the new single has been made available to fans for a few weeks now and I've listened to it multiple times. With that in mind, I think I've now developed enough of an opinion to warrant a proper post on the single, although please note that this post may change (and probably will) rather significantly once I get to hear Elysium, as hearing what themes are present on the album may cause me to change my initial interpretations, so this is sill very much a work in progress. As far as opinions go, I have to admit that this really wasn't the attention grabbing lead single that I thought it would be and it feels like an unusually high amount of fans agree; I was expecting an upbeat dance track and I really think that was what they needed after they leaked Invisible (which was beautiful however). I think the biggest disappointment for me with Winner is that as things stand at the moment, it does feel like an Olympics cash in. Cashing in is something that I never expected from Pet Shop Boys, although that isn't to say that the theme of the album is predominately upbeat and euphoric, in which case Winner fits in effortlessly. There's nothing really about the track I could say I out rightly dislike, but it feels characterless. Lyrically, the song is simply about victory and celebrating achievement which does obviously fit in with the Olympic theme. In one way the lyrics are new territory for them: they're simplistic for once with no hidden meaning (at this stage, although the album's release may highlight some implicit reference that's alluded me). Having said that, the lyrics do feel pretty ordinary too, there's not even any wit that is present in so many of their tracks. In some ways that's a good thing, its nice to have more simplistic tracks to balance out more experimental work like Invisible etc. I mean Heart is one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys songs but its almost without doubt their most straightforward love song. In some ways I think Pet Shop Boys have utilized cynical elements in their lyrics so much that once they leave those elements out, fans can feel like they've dumbed down or something. Simplistic lyrics don't bother me in the least (a lot of the dance music I listen to has very little, and sometimes no lyrics whatsoever) as long as there is something else to compensate. With Heart, it had a brilliant dance beat and hook, but whilst Winner has a perfectly nice and inoffensive melody, compared to the likes of Being Boring's melody it just feels ordinary. I could even live with the lyrics if it wasn't for the fact that Neil's voice on this (mainly due to the vocal effects) actually makes the lyrics sound rather miserable which completely goes against the whole theme of the track. The track has a feel of Release era about it, and considering that the theme (for now at least) is about victory doesn't quite add up, I mean uplifting isn't exactly the first word that springs to mind when you think of Release era Pet Shop Boys. Having said that, you could argue maybe what they are doing is totally mocking the whole overly zealous attitude, I mean on one hand its almost too over the top with the audience applauding sound effects etc. Maybe they're meaning it to be ironic but we'll not know for sure until September. It almost sounds like an X Factor winners single, which I personally find to be as dull and characterless as you could get. I still have high hopes for the album, but I really hope the second single will be a massive improvement. I think they need a dance floor oriented track for the next release!

Rock star roots.

I've just found out something rather interesting about Nirvana, whom I'm investigating at the minute. As it happens, it turns out that Kurt Cobain actually has roots in Northern Ireland, where I am from! As it turns out, the fifth generation of his family had the surname Cobane and lived in County Tyronne, before emigrating to Washington where Kurt himself would grow up. I can't say that I actually live near Tyronne, I live on the other side of Northern Ireland actually, in the capital city of Belfast. Having said that, some members of my family do know people that share that same Cobane name. Never the less, this is a very interesting thing for me, and its making me excited about looking into their work further and seeing if I can find out a little more about it! I've also found some really good pictures and pieces of information about their gig in the Kings Hall in Belfast in 1992 which you can visit by clicking HERE (you'll have to scroll down to get to the Belfast entry however). That site seems to be one of the most informative live chronologies of Nirvana, and one that I will definitely be making frequent visits too as I investigate their work further!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

TOTP, but not quite.

Was watching yet another old TOTP show (can you tell I like to watch such things?) from 1977. I have to admit I didn't really enjoy that many of the songs on this particular episode bar this one which I'm sharing - The Jacksons - Show You The Way To Go. I've always really loved this song, one of their finest I think! For some reason the performance wasn't actually an actual Top Of The Pops performance, rather they showed a performance from The Jacksons Variety Show from CBS instead, honestly though, I can't say why this is. I mean, they did perform the track on TOTP definitely once (and I think it might have been twice if memory serves me), so that's a little odd. Never the less, this is a brilliant clip!

Please vinyl

This I found the same day I got my first Pet Shop Boys 7" and the old issue of NME magazine with Bernard Sumner on the cover. Its the second album of theirs I own on LP (the first being Introspective). For whatever reason, this cost a few pound more than Introspective did, honestly not sure why that is. I actually got alerted to this being in the vintage record shop via a friend, for whatever reason I missed this first time round, even when I went back to get it it actually still took some time to track down in the P section. Its in good condition, but it has a slight nick at the top of the cover in the centre, but that could be due to people flicking through the records and scuffing the top of it. Neverless, I'm still pleased (ahem) to have it!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

New Releases: Happy Mondays

Good lord, it feels as if every day there seems to be a new Happy Mondays release at the moment! Firstly they did a new CD+DVD combo of their 2004 concert from Barcelona (which isn't the original lineup), then the obligatory greatest hits (featuring new liner notes by Shaun Ryder and the previously rare track and debut single Delightful, which isn't available anywhere else). Recently, its just been announced that there's also the arrival of two (no, that isn't a mistake!) live albums also. One of which is a pretty old concert from 1990 in New York, and the other is a release of one of their recent reunion gigs, from Brixton Academy in England to be exact. I'm excited for these new releases (particularly the new greatest hits for the rare track and the Brixton live CD as so far I've been impressed with how they're sounding since the reunion). I just hope that Happy Mondays are planning to remaster + re release their studio albums hopefully with the inclusion of some rarities, as Bummed and Pills And Thrill's and Bellyaches deluxe editions that were released a few years ago have become hard to find in the UK for whatever reason!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Currently reading...

Currently reading this at the minute. Its an officially released and authorized book which essentially chronicles the Pet Shop Boys on their first tour, where they visited Japan then played some dates in the UK. I'm a good part of the way through it, around 210 pages or so which equates to about 12 or so chapters of the book. They've just left Japan and are getting ready to return to the UK. The book can be very funny in places and is also very interesting if you are a fan of Pet Shop Boys as you gain an invaluable insight into their personalities. I'll hopefully have it finished by the end of this coming week or the start of the next!

Some little TOTP Clips

So I was watching TOTP2 with my family earlier which is always an enjoyable way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon, as usual it had some good performances and others that were just bizarre, particularly some of the older ones from the 70's. This week featured X-Ray Spex funnily enough, which is a little ironic considering the earlier post I made on them today (judging by my my families reaction they are definitely an acquired taste as my parents and brother couldn't stand their sound). They also had other songs that I like such as Give It Up by KC and The Sunshine Band and Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio. My two favourites have to be these little gems though which I thought I'd share. The first one is Everybody Wants to Rule The World by Tears for Fears and the second is This Town Ain't Big Enough For Two Of Us by Sparks. The Sparks one is particularly quirky but in a rather brilliant way I think!

Interesting little download.

I have an odd fascination developing in recent months for record labels (particularly interested in ZTT, Factory and Creation), In recent times though I'm also particularly interested in Some Bizzare too. Their compilation album of the same name was their first release, and was designed to give an indication of the musical sound the label were interested in. I downloaded this last night after figuring it would be a good place to start. What I find fascinating is that the release contains early recordings by some acts that would go on to have much success like Depeche Mode (the version of Photographic here is actually the first released recording of Depeche Mode's) and also Blancmange and Soft Cell (who would then be signed to Some Bizzare) I've only heard a few of the other tracks of it so far and it sounds like a very experimental piece of work, definitely an interesting listen indeed!


There are times when you have to admit you are wrong about something, and this is one of them for me. Lately (like in the last month or so) I was watching the Sounds of the 70's punk music edition on the BBC, which you can find in its entirety on Youtube HERE. It certainly was a mixed bag, some of the songs on it I utterly loved (Joy Division's She's Lost Control being the obvious one there) but one in particular called Oh Bondage! Up Yours! by X-Ray Spex utterly grated on me, particularly because of the singer, the late Poly Sterene's voice. I have to admit though that for whatever reason I've actually grown to really like the track now, its funny how opinions can change. I've heard that their debut album was really good, so I think I will check it out and explore their discography further!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Happy Mondays 2012 Performance/Interview

Big fan of Happy Mondays so I'm naturally very pleased that they've reformed recently, this time featuring the original line-up for the first time since the mid 90's. This is a very recent appearance from the last lot of days on the This Morning program which I thought was worth sharing for other Happy Mondays fans. Its a live performance of Step On (Which sounds good I think) and also a very interesting little interview were they talk about their reasons for reforming, and also the possibility of a new Happy Mondays album, I for one hope to see that come to fruition!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Postive Role Model.

"When your young, you find inspiration in anyone who's ever gone and opened up a closing door."

I decided to open my post, for once not with my own words, but with words written by the very subject matter of this post: Neil Tennant. If ever I had to choose words that summed up what I thought of him or anyone that I could deem as being influential/inspirational in my life, those would be the words.

Being the massive Pet Shop Boys fan that I am, I could list off endless reasons as to why I love them. From their visuals, what they stand for, the risks they take.... I could go on. The thing that I love about them most of all, and what makes them stand out for me though, is their lyrics.

Initially, I didn't take notice of their lyrics I have to admit. My taste in music is predominately based in the field of electronic/dance music where lyrics are hardly required to make a track effective. As a consequence, despite being a fan of many artists before Pet Shop Boys, I couldn't say I was a fan of any on the strength of their lyrical ability, even though I did have song lyrics that I loved of course.

One day though, all that changed. I was still investigating Pet Shop Boys at a relatively early stage (probably about a month or so into it), whilst listening to the track that had convinced me I had become a fan of theirs: Can You Forgive Her? One line in the track had made me take note all of a sudden: "She's made you some kind of laughing stock because you dance to disco and you don't like rock". At the time, I was getting ridiculed for my music taste. Being into a lot of 80's music and especially synthpop, I tend to find that some more ignorant people have criticised my taste, saying that what I listen to isn't real music. I'm not as clean cut as that though taste wise, some of my all-time favourite songs are by Motley Crue and Guns & Roses. Anyhow, that particular line of the song seemed to sum me up so well at the time, and whilst hardly being an example of a great Pet Shop Boys lyric (its still one of my favourites though for nostalgia reasons) it made me pay attention to their lyrics more.

As I started to listen to their lyrics more and more, I very quickly developed the viewpoint that Neil Tennant probably is one of the best lyricists to come out of Britain in the last 30 years or so. In my opinion, he's one of the most criminally overlooked songwriters in pop history, but that's another story. Their big hits like Heart and It's A Sin may not show off his skills, but delve into album tracks, B-sides etc (where in all honesty, the best material of Pet Shop Boys is in my opinion) and I think they really shine through. What I really love about his lyrics is that they manage to seamlessly be a hybrid of pop culture references, historical references and can be in a variety of tones, from humorous to heart-wrenching and yet it always feels natural. I'll admit to something: Jealousy is the only song that has ever made me actually cry. Given that I very rarely cry at anything (and I do mean rarely), I think that's a minor achievement in itself. I always highlight Only The Wind as an example of how good his lyrics are, which is about domestic abuse but seen through the eyes of the perpetrator. For me, tackling a subject as horrible as domestic abuse from that angle takes real guts, and the song itself is one of the most chilling I've ever heard.

It never ceases to amaze how many times I've listened to a song of theirs whilst feeling a certain way, and how much I've been able to relate to said track. I began listening to them whilst I was sort of finding out what I was really about, and their songs have really provided the soundtrack to my whole self discovery (or coming out, as I sometimes put it). Metamorphis is a very personal song for me because of that, although it was written about Neil Tennant coming out. In another example about a year ago I had rough times at school due to issues with some of my peers, which made me feel somewhat miserable. I remember turning on my ipod, and The End Of The World came on, which contains the line "its just a boy, or a girl, its not the end of the world" and it really cheered me up. There's more, but I think you get the idea. No matter what mood I'm in, there always seems to be a song to match. My music tastes forever change and evolve, but Pet Shop Boys lyrics have elevated them beyond that really, no mater what phase I'm going through they'll transcend it and remain a regular force on my ipod/hifi

Of course, I can't ignore the other reasons why I admire Neil so much as a human being beyond his work as a Pet Shop Boy. I always find him so interesting to listen to in interviews because he is so intelligent, plus there's the added bonus that I also find him very witty too quite often. As you could imagine, when I decided that music journalism was a potential career path I particularly looked up to him on that front. Northern Ireland isn't massive, and trying to get into music journalism here is absolute hell and really can be quite demoralising for that reason. I suppose I take some solace in the fact that Neil became deputy editor of Smash Hits despite not being qualified in journalism at all. Given that I can't exactly get qualified in music journalism over here unless I moved to England (which I don't want to do) I really take inspiration from that. I also love how both he (as well as Chris) are down to earth, and really come across as real people rather than high-brow snooty popstars. In some ways I'm surprised they do that so well given their level of intelligence really. Its because of their lyrics and all these reasons that I love and admire him so much as a person, and while he'll always remain one of my biggest inspirations in life.

Happy birthday Neil!

Well fellow petheads, its one of the most important days in the Pet Shop Boys calendar. Today, Neil Tennant celebrates his 58th birthday! This is the briefest of posts to simply wish him a very happy birthday and one that is filled with much happiness and joy and heres to many more years to come of wonderful music!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Bernard Sumner NME Issue.

In a slightly more unusual purchase, I found this again thanks to a friend in Big Bang. I do read the NME magazine a lot as they feature many of my favourite artists very often like Blur, Stone Roses, Oasis etc. This one is a vintage one from 1993 and features Bernard Sumner of New Order as its cover star. Its fascinating to see how the magazine was different all those years ago, as it was done in a broadsheet newspaper style, very different from the smaller and much more colorful look of it today. It also contains a lot of other artists I'm interested in like 808 State and Happy Mondays. I'm hoping to even discover a smaller artist that I've never heard of from reading this issue too maybe! For £2 I couldn't resist!

Fine Time 7"

I found this the first time I had gone into Big Bang, but didn't buy it until my second visit were I got DJ Culture by Pet Shop Boys etc. This is Fine Time on 7", which is a strong contender for my favourite New Order song but its probably one of my favourite songs ever full stop! In all honesty, the cover is a little bit more battered compared to the other vinyls I know, and because its in a protective wallet in that picture, it does actually look a bit worse in real life. Still, for £2 I can't complain!

Friendly Fires studio albums and autograph

A fantastic group who I discovered last year. Honestly, they're one of my favourite contemporary groups! I bought their debut album in an HMV store whilst on a trip to Bangor, and listened to the album on the car ride on the way home, so I've got a few memories accosiated with it. The debut album was brilliant, but sophomore album Pala was even better I felt. I pre-ordered Pala from Play.com after seeing that there were signed copies of the album as a pre-order special. Pala is one of my favourite albums ever probably, so to have it with a signed slip just makes it that bit more special!

How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously/Where The Streets Have No Name 7"

This was a surprise find, whilst I was looking for Please, DJ Culture etc. I didn't know this was going to be there, so when I found it I was incredibly surprised! Its the 7" of How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously/Where The Streets Have No Name. Its in good condition too so I'm really pleased I found it!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

DJ Culture 7"

I found this in the same store I got my Introspective vinyl. Its the 7" of DJ Culture. Actually, I managed to miss this the first time I was down in town, I had utterly failed to notice the particular pile of 7" this was in. It was actually a friend that told me about this being in town, along with some other vinyls I picked up on the same day. DJ Culture is one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys songs, so I'm so pleased I found this for £2!