If you choose to ignore Winner (a lot of people would) then Leaving was the first single from Pet Shop Boys‘ 2012 album Elysium. The main track is an elegant slice of classic PSB – perhaps a little drab on the face of it, but the more you listen, the more rewarding the song becomes. The lyrics are positively bristling with bitter energy, and the deep moping analogue sound is entirely fitting. In days gone by, this would have been a top ten hit, but in the age we live it was barely able to scrape the bottom end of the chart.
The first CD / package, Leaving – EP, comes with three additional b-sides, starting with the witty Hell, to all intents and purposes a “list” track from Pet Shop Boys‘ golden age. To a bouncy rhythm, Vlad the Impaler meets the Ceaușescus, while a long list of other generally nasty people (including, controversially, Vladimir Putin alongside Fred West). Like the best of PSB tracks, it’s funny, a little bit daft, and features a false ending. What’s not to like?
Next up is In his imagination, a really sweet bonus track from another long-standing PSB series of slightly introspective songs about one of the young people who can’t be bothered to go out and find a job while everyone else panics about his future and he dreams about what might happen to him.
The final track on the first disc is Baby (2003 demo), which you may have previously heard snippets of during The Most Incredible Thing. It sounds a lot like Flamboyant, which really did come out in 2003, and isn’t nearly as good, but it is a worthwhile reminder of how good their 2006 album Fundamental could have been if they’d kept making proper synthpop rather than messing around doing over-the-top orchestral pieces with Trevor Horn.
The second CD, Leaving Remixed, contains three versions of the title track. First up is the Lost Her Love Remix by Dusty Kid, a much more spacious (and ever so slightly pointless) eleven and a half minute take on the track, which seems to be designed primarily to take as long as possible. It opens with an extremely long piano solo, which ticks off nearly two minutes, before launching into a pleasant section with swelling bass and a chunk of the vocals from the first verse, followed by a guitar breakdown. That’s another two minutes ticked off. And on it goes. The piano comes back – another couple of minutes pass. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with any of it – in fact the pad swells at the end are extremely pleasant – but it is about eleven times longer than is absolutely necessary – a worthwhile reminder of why you should exercise the delete key occasionally. I’ll take note myself.
Next up is the Believe in PSB Remix, an extended mix by the boys themselves. It’s been extended by the 1980s rulebook, and so after some soft swells in the introduction you get an instrumental verse, then, for the most part, the original song. They’ve done a bit of work on the drums to make it a bit more driven and add a few Shep Pettibone-inspired drum builds, but otherwise you’ve heard the next bit already. Again, according to the rules of the 80s 12″ mix, the middle section is longer and has some extra bits in it, before building back to the chorus and then ending with a bang. Predictable? I suppose so. Brilliant? Entirely.
Apart from using the same drums and middle section as the version we’ve just heard, there’s nothing unduly special about the demo version of Leaving which closes this CD, but it is nice to hear. I demand more demo versions.
If one remix package wasn’t enough for you, on Leaving you get a second, entitled Leaving Again, which brings you the slightly more Euro-flavoured PSB Side-by-Side Remix (which is pretty much the same as the last one, but now also with added bonus synth bits and also an extra spoken word section towards the end).
Then there’s an Andrew Dawson remix, which is worth special attention as it was one of his which breathed new life into Winner on the last single package. His HappySad Remix of Leaving is less spectacular than that one was, but is excellent nonetheless, full of synth swells and crescendos.
Finally another PSB mix, the Freedom Remix, a pleasant dub version with a lot more 1980s drum builds and reverb effects. It’s hard not to like a version like this, as it builds something new out of an excellent original version. And it closes the excellent trio of packages that make up the Leaving single with gusto. Highly recommended.
You can find the Leaving single at all the usual download outlets, with physical versions of the first two discs at Amazon UK and “all good record stores”.