Pet Shop Boys – Please

The culmination of a couple of years of getting their feet off the ground, Pet Shop Boys‘ debut album Please appeared this week thirty years ago. That is definitely cause for a celebration.

It opens with the curiously brilliant Two divided by zero, on which a sampled calculation error repeats itself throughout a hauntingly beautiful song about running away from home. In many ways it’s a very obvious way to open the album, and yet it always seems to come as a bit of a shock when you hear the drum intro and suddenly remember that it doesn’t start with West End girls.

That comes next, and is undeniably brilliant. Slightly longer and more spacious in its album form, it really sounds so good, so iconic. There aren’t many songs as good as this in existence – London’s underbelly is captured as dark and seedy, but ultimately beautiful and invigorating too.

When it was re-recorded in 1985 with Stephen HagueWest End girls shed its sillier side, and became much more atmospheric, and so it is fitting that Hague appears on the whole album. On Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money) though, he actually removed its darker side, turning it into a simpler pop song, which does it a lot of favours too. Somehow he seemed to instinctively know the right treatment for every song, and removing the “all the love that we had” coda was one of his better moves.

It would be difficult to argue that Love comes quickly is better, but it’s every bit as good. A disappointing chart hit, on the album it sounds so full of mournful energy that it’s difficult to ignore. This is not so true for Suburbia though – on this album, this is the one time that Hague let himself down a little, as the later single version proves. It’s still a good song in its album form, although it still suffers slightly from the overpowering samples that plagues all the versions, and the punchy bassline doesn’t quite seem right for the song.

The oddest moment on the whole album, which never actually appeared on the credits of the vinyl and cassette versions, is the thirty second reprise of Opportunities which opens Side B, before leading into the glorious Tonight is forever. It may not be single material, but it’s extremely good album fare, and sees Neil Tennant on particularly good vocal form.

Violence, famously reinvented at The Haçienda several years later, could so easily be vacuous and silly, but it isn’t – it’s haunting and beautiful. Its neighbour I want a lover fits perfectly too – if nothing else, this would be an exquisitely structured album, but that’s far from all that you can say for it.

Later Tonight is far from subtle, instead a strong and powerful statement full of emotional piano and pads. Perhaps inevitably, it fits perfectly, leading into the appropriately hoarse and euphoric Why don’t we live together?

For a debut album, Pet Shop Boys truly excelled themselves with Please, and the follow-up Actually, far from a difficult second album, managed to be better still. There are plenty of indications of longevity here, but it would have been difficult to predict just how important an album it might turn out to be.

At the time of writing, the definitive version of Please is the 2001 double CD reissue, which is only available second hand now. The single CD version is still worth having.

Preview – Andy Bell

Andy Bell is back with his follow-up to Torsten the Bareback Saint, entitled Torsten the Beautiful Libertine. If you haven’t been paying attention, that’s his latest solo project, and yields this spectacularly low-budget video for My Precious One:

Chart for stowaways – 20 February 2016

Here are the top ten singles this week:

  1. Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Inner Sanctum
  3. Goldfrapp – Stranger
  4. Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
  5. Conjure One feat. Hannah Ray – Kill the Fear
  6. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – Tutti Frutti
  7. Roísín Murphy – Exploitation
  8. Massive Attack, Tricky & 3D – Take it There
  9. The Human League – Don’t You Want Me
  10. Roísín Murphy -Hairless Toys (Gotta Hurt)

The BRIT Awards 2016

Quite rightly, you were very excited about the BRIT Awards this year, and you flocked in your hundreds to read my latest selection of The Best of the BRIT Awards. What I wasn’t able to do, mainly due to being on holiday, was list the winners for you. So here goes…

British Male Solo Artist

Nominees:

  • Aphex Twin
  • James Bay
  • Calvin Harris
  • Mark Ronson
  • Jamie xx

Winner: James Bay

British Female Solo Artist

Nominees:

  • Adele
  • Florence + The Machine
  • Jess Glynne
  • Laura Marling
  • Amy Winehouse

Winner: Adele

British Group

  • Blur
  • Coldplay
  • Foals
  • One Direction
  • Years & Years

Winner: Coldplay

British Breakthrough Act

  • James Bay
  • Catfish and the Bottlemen
  • Jess Glynne
  • Wolf Alice
  • Years & Years

Winner: Catfish and the Bottlemen

British Producer of the Year

  • Charlie Andrew
  • Mike Crossey
  • Tom Dalgety
  • Mark Ronson

Winner: Charlie Andrew

British Single

  • Adele – Hello
  • James Bay – Hold Back the River
  • Philip George – Wish You Were Mine
  • Jess Glynne – Hold My Hand
  • Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
  • Little Mix – Black Magic
  • Calvin Harris & Disciples – How Deep is Your Love
  • Olly Murs feat. Demi Lovato – Up
  • Ed Sheeran & Rudimental – Bloodstream
  • Years & Years – King

Winner: Adele

Mastercard British Album of the Year

  • Adele – 25
  • James Bay – Chaos and the Calm
  • Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams
  • Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • Jamie xx – In Colour

Winner: Adele

British Artist Video

  • Adele – Hello
  • Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
  • Calvin Harris & Disciples – How Deep is Your Love
  • Jessie J – Flashlight
  • Little Mix – Black Magic
  • Naughty Boy feat. Beyoncé & Arrow Benjamin – Runnin’ (Lose it All)
  • One Direction – Drag Me Down
  • Ed Sheeran – Photograph
  • Sam Smith – Writing’s on the Wall
  • Years & Years – King

Winner: One Direction

International Male Solo Artist

  • Justin Bieber
  • Drake
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Father John Misty
  • The Weeknd

Winner: Justin Bieber

International Female Solo Artist

  • Courtney Barnett
  • Björk
  • Ariana Grande
  • Lana del Rey
  • Meghan Trainor

Winner: Björk. Again.

International Group

  • Alabama Shakes
  • Eagles of Death Metal
  • Major Lazer
  • Tame Impala
  • U2

Winner: Tame Impala. I bet U2 were furious – they always win this award.

Critics’ Choice

  • Izzy Bizu
  • Frances
  • Jack Garratt

Winner: Jack Garratt

Global Success

A special made-up award for Adele, because she was robbed in the International Male Solo Artist category and was so upset.

Well, that’s it for another year. See you next January for the latest nominees in the ADELE Awards.

Preview – Underworld

If you haven’t been paying attention recently, you could be forgiven for not having noticed Underworld‘s unusually soft reappearance. From the eccentrically titled new album Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future, here’s a series of teaser snippets: