Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pet Shop Boys - Fundamental

Are you gonna go to the Sodom and Gomorrah show?

Pet Shop Boys release their new album, Fundamental, on 22nd May 2006. It's an electronic epic, sitting comfortably with some of their best efforts, Very and Behaviour.

It sounds dark and sinister in parts, though very PSB. There are some topical issues dealt with which makes it very 2006, very now, though conversely, a classic in the making.

Psychological

The album opens with Psychological. It's terribly electronic. "You've got a problem with the reason why. An asymmet
ric haircut and a painted eye. It's psychological." A repetitive electronic beat, no drums audible. Pet Shop Boys have invented a whole new sound. Minimal - yet full. Weird lyrics about someone going mad. "Who's that knocking on the cellar door?" The line, "Or is it only your imagination driving me crazy, crazy, baby, baby, please," is a definite homage to Doctor, Doctor by Thompson Twins. Definitely retro, definitely stylish.

The Sodom and Gomorrah show

This track sounds like it should really have been the opening track on the album. "Sun, sex, sin, divine intervention, death and destruction. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Sodom and Gomorrah show!" See what I mean? But I guess this isn't a concept album and Neil and Chris can do what the hell they like. The feel of the song is very singer/songwriter, the sound, something like one might have expected to hear on Release. I think I can hear real drums in there, but don't quote me on that. There are guitars and synthesizers, almost classic PSB, but with a twist, and that twist is brought to us courtesy of Trevor Horn. I don't know if the Trevor Horn sound is obvious, but it's definitely there.

I made my excuses and left

The first two songs on Fundamental are complicated, musically and lyrically. This is a very simple song, yet a very beautiful one. There is a very lengthy opening segment here, which sounds, on the first listen, like a sample from a very old 78rmp record. It's not. The spring 2005 (I think April) issue of the Pet Shop Boys club magazine, Literally, says that the opening segment was indeed...
"built around a melody and vocal line Chris sung into his Nokia mobile phone as he was walking home over Waterloo Bridge in the rain." Once you know it's Chris singing, it's blindingly obvious. And he's singing, "I'm all alone again, I'm all alone." It's very dark, very sad. As is the rest of the song. It seems to be about a man who's found that the person he's in love with is, in fact, in love with someone else. He feels awkward and embarrassed, makes his excuses and leaves. The end of the song is:

So long ago
I felt like such a fool for crying
All that I know
Is when you feel inside, you're dying
It all begins again, defying
Your excuses

It seems the guy made the realisation about the person he's in love with quite some time ago. Even now, it's just as painful as it was back in the day. Very sad. It's the You only tell me you love me when you're drunk of this album. I think it's my favourite.

Minimal

This is a fabulous song and should definitely be a single! It's a hard-hitting, electro/80s sounding track conjuring images of Visage and Kelly Osbourne's One Word. The song's chorus is basically Neil singing and spelling the word minimal. Lyrically, it's very abstract and the line, "Decide something less decisional," troubles me greatly. I think we're getting back to existentialism here. Oh no, I'm going to tie myself up in knots again.

A philosophical song, akin to Miserablism. But much faster, and much more fabulous!

The final flourish sounds very New Order/Electronic. I love it.

Numb

Numb was written by Diane Warren and initially intended for PopArt. It wasn't used, for reasons unknown to me, and turns up here. It's an ok song, full of strings, a nice melody, but it's blatantly obvious it's not written by Neil and Chris. It has the interest of a cover version, but none of the fun and sits uncomfortably with the rest of the songs. Neil's singing method seems to have been adapted somewhat to sing this song and that, in my humble opinion, is not such a good thing.

This track is rumoured to be a future single, all based on Ms Warren's writing credentials. I hope the runour turns out not to be true.

God willing/Luna Park

God willing should, I think, not be counted as a song in itself. It's very short, is an instrumental track and seems only to serve as an introduction to the dull Luna Park. Why it's called God willing is anyone's guess, though perhaps one should pay attention to the album's title, Fundamental, think of Islam and religion in general.

All we know is that, "The future's dark in Luna Park." I think the present's pretty dark too. I might change my mind about this track, but I don't particularly care for it.

Why is there always one?

I'm with Stupid

You've seen those t-shits bearing the words I'm with stupid, an insult to anyone who's with the person wearing the t-shirt. This time, Tony Blair appears to be wearing the t-shirt and his pal is George W Bush. One thing I'd like to know: who's more stupid, George W Bush for being a complete tosser or Tony Blair for making him his best friend?

Casanova in hell

Casanova can't get it up anymore. That's his secret shame. So he spies on people having it off. But then he seems to have some realisation that by writing his memoirs, he'll have the last laugh and his erection will live forever in history.

Musically, it's quite a simple song, very electronic sounding, slow and mellow. If it weren't for I made my excuses and left, this would be my favourite track on the album. Definitely nothing Girls Aloud would be singing about. Pet Shop Boys are clever, intelligent and provocative. Girls Aloud are a bunch of rough chavs.

Twentieth Century

"Sometimes, the solution is worse than the problem." What's that to do with the twentieth century? First, I didn't get it, then I heard Neil singing about revolution, statues falling. "Everyone came to destroy what was wicked but they killed off what was good as well."

"Sometimes, the solution is worse than the problem." It's not about a couple deciding to break up or not or whether to be just good friends. I think it's about the fall of communism and the invasion of Iraq. Listen to the whole track when you can and decide for yourself.

Musically, the track is similar to Casanova in hell, though a little more up tempo. It's the Before of Fundamental.

Indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain is Home Office jargon. If an immigrant is granted indefinite leave to remain, they can stay in the UK, and, after a time, apply for citizenship.

There's comedy potential here in the couplets

You're my nation
This is my application

and

It may sound superficial
Can't we make it offical

I think the whole thing's a metaphor. It's nothing to do with immigration, but about staying with someone for ever.

I can hear accoustic guitars here, lots of real instruments and a background synthesizer sound. Another Release-sounding track, but very beautiful, very melodic.

Integral

The last track of the album is a traditional disco stomper - with a message. In other words, it's very Pet Shop Boys. Musically, it's quite similar to Go West, though perhaps harsher and more industrial.

The lyrics to Integral:

Long live us
the persuaded we
integral
collectively
to the whole project
it's brand new
conceived solely
to protect you

One world
One reason
Unchanging
One season

If you've done nothing wrong
you've got nothing to fear
If you've something to hide
you shouldn't even be here
You've had your chance
now we've got the mandate
If you've changed your mind
I'm afraid it's too late
We're concerned
you're a threat
You're not integral
to the project

Everyone has
their own number
in the system that
we operate under
We're moving to
a situation
where your lives are simply
information

One world
One life
One chance
One reason
All under
one sky
unchanging
one season

If you've done nothing wrong
you've got nothing to fear
If you've something to hide
you shouldn't even be here
You've had your chance
now we've got the mandate
If you've changed your mind
I'm afraid it's too late
We're concerned
you're a threat
You're not integral
to the project

Words and music: Tennant/Lowe.
Copyright 2006 Cage Music Ltd/Sony ATV Music Ltd

Do you think, perhaps, it's about ID cards?

Incidentally, before the encore at the recent performance of Battleship Potemkin, Neil said, "Can I just say, no to ID cards!"


2 comments:

Enda P said...

Funny. I'm listening to it right now. I agree with you about Minimal, but I think that Numb is excellent. It suits Neil to sing more straighforwardly emotional lyrics occasionally. Nope? :)

Minge said...

You're right and it does suit Neil to sing more straighforwardly emotional lyrics occasionally. My beef is with the style of the song. It's not like a cover - and they've made it their own, they haven't. It's recorded like a PSB original, though the sound/style of it makes it blatently obvious that it's not. Makes the whole thing sound and feel quite uncomfortable.