Relentless is that one forgotten oddity, the Pet Shop Boys album that never was. Released two decades ago this week as a special limited edition to Very, it came out just the once and then has never been reissued or revisited since.
Which is a great shame, as it’s really rather good – it could easily have been a full album in its own right. It’s only 35 minutes long in its full form, which is a little on the short side, and twenty years on it is perhaps a little dated now, but nonetheless every track is excellent.
First up is My head is spinning, which after a three minute intro finally builds into a chant of “my head is spinning”, with a bit of maniacal laughter. There’s a point around the five minute mark where you just get a synth arpeggio and kick, and it just sounds absolutely enormous.
There’s really no hint of Relentless on its parent album Very – the closest you get is perhaps Yesterday, when I was mad, or the tail end of Go West, and in an age where limited edition versions of albums were still the exception rather than the norm, it’s difficult to know whether this would have come to a surprise to listeners or whether it was mainly bought by fans.
Forever in love is the one track which you’ll find elsewhere, in its alternative 1992 single form on Very‘s subsequent bonus disc Further Listening 1992-1994. The Relentless version is missing the first verse altogether for editorial reasons, which seems a bit of a shame in a way. When the track finally emerges from its two-and-a-half minute introduction, it’s extremely good – a classic Pet Shop Boys track which could easily have been half of a single with Go West (as was the original intention), or even a pretty euphoric single on its own.
KDX 125 is apparently the name of a motorbike which Chris Lowe liked, and is an extremely rare thing in Pet Shop Boys circles – it’s entirely instrumental. It’s another very good track too – nothing too unusual or groundbreaking, but as one of the central tracks on Relentless it does help to define what the album is, and what it represents. This is a dance album, and makes no apologies for that.
Neither should it – We came from outer space is next, and is another strong track. It’s a little darker and spookier than some of its neighbours, but again it’s a powerful dance piece. It even features a Lowe vocal, which is always a special treat – “something’s not right / I can’t work it out.”
The penultimate track is the pumping The man who has everything, full of dark synth arpeggios and musings about what to give the man who has everything. A “proper” Pet Shop Boys album this may not be, but it is pretty special anyway, and it’s a real shame that it’s been largely forgotten by history.
Finally comes One thing leads to another, which has a rather silly vocal by Neil Tennant‘s normal standards, but apart from that it’s probably the closest this album comes to “traditional” Pet Shop Boys. It’s a great track, and probably the least danceable of the entire mini-album. In another era this might have been a good b-side, but here it closes this disc perfectly.
Relentless may be forgotten, but it’s a great little album, and a great example of what happens when Pet Shop Boys break the shackles of the traditional pop structure, the echoes of which are still being heard today.
Relentless isn’t widely available these days – this Japanese version looks to be your best bet, packaged with a whole pile of b-sides and remixes as well.