Chart for stowaways – October 2020

Both charts in October was dominated by the return of The Future Sound of London, with Cascade 2020 holding the top spot on the album chart for the whole month, and the single Cascade finally knocking Pet Shop BoysWest End girls off the top of the singles half way through the month.

There was some back catalogue drama on the albums meanwhile, as demonstrated by this top ten from October 24th:

  1. The Future Sound of London – Cascade 2020
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  3. The Beloved – Happiness
  4. The Beloved – Where it Is
  5. Kraftwerk – Die Mensch-Maschine
  6. Various Artists – The Best of “O” Records, Vol. 1
  7. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest
  8. Various Artists – The Best of “O” Records, Vol. 2
  9. Kraftwerk – Computerwelt
  10. Kraftwerk – Techno Pop

Chart for stowaways – September 2020

September started with Pet Shop Boys retaking the top of the singles chart with their lockdown version of West End girls, who then held onto the top slot for the whole of the month. The albums, meanwhile, belonged again to The Beloved, who held the top with their reissued Happiness for the whole month too.

Here are the top singles from September 19th:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
  2. The Beloved – Your Love Takes Me Higher
  3. New Order – Be A Rebel
  4. Sparks – Self-Effacing
  5. Kylie Minogue – Say Something
  6. Erasure – Shot A Satellite
  7. Sparks – Onomato Pia
  8. Jean-Michel Jarre – The Heart of Noise
  9. Sparks – Please Don’t Fuck Up My World
  10. Pet Shop Boys – My beautiful laundrette

Chart for stowaways – August 2020

August saw flashbacks to 1990, with the return of The Beloved to the charts with their debut studio album Happiness. From a humble re-entry at number 4 at the start of the month, it climbed gradually to the top spot, sitting there for the latter half of the month. For the final week, their 1989 single Your Love Takes Me Higher finally climbed up to the top spot on both the Singles and Catalogue Singles charts, finally deposing Pet Shop Boys‘ latest recreation of West End girls from both charts after eight weeks. Meanwhile, Sparks continued their domination of all the charts, with three previous chart-toppers remaining in the top ten for the whole month.

Here’s the album chart for the final week of the month:

  1. The Beloved – Happiness
  2. Erasure – The Neon
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  4. The Beloved – Where it Is
  5. Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  6. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  7. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  8. Erasure – Hits! The Very Best of
  9. Erasure – Total Pop! The First 40 Hits
  10. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest

Chart for stowaways – July 2020

July was a quiet month for the chart for stowaways. Pet Shop Boys sat on top of both the Singles and Catalogue Singles charts for the whole month with their recent lockdown version of West End girls, while recent single I don’t wanna and the My beautiful laundrette soundtrack hovered near the top of the Singles. After a quiet start on the album charts, Sparks‘ latest A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip finally re-entered at number 2 at the start of the month, and jumped to the top spot the following week, while various of their older albums hovered around too.

Here’s the album chart for 18th July:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  3. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  4. The Beloved – Where it Is
  5. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  6. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest
  7. Human League – The Essential
  8. Saint Etienne – Words and Music by Saint Etienne
  9. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  10. Sparks – Hippopotamus

Chart for stowaways – June 2020

June still saw Pet Shop Boys dominating, with Hotspot still at the top of the albums, and now My beautiful laundrette at the top of the albums. Kraftwerk continued to float around all of the charts, and we finally saw the long-awaited return of The Grid, with their new remix of Floatation.

Here are the singles from 13th June:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – My beautiful laundrette
  2. The Beloved – Grin
  3. Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
  4. Pet Shop Boys – I don’t wanna
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Will-o-the-wisp
  6. Scotts/Travis Scott/Kid Cudi – The Scotts
  7. The Beloved – Forever Dancing
  8. The Grid – Floatation
  9. Kraftwerk – Taschenrechner
  10. Soft Cell – Potential

Chart for stowaways – May 2020

May saw Pet Shop Boys dominating the charts, with I don’t wanna climbing to the top of the singles and Hotspot holding onto the albums for the whole month. Meanwhile, Florian Schneider‘s untimely death saw Kraftwerk turning up all over the single and album charts.

Here’s the album chart for 16th May:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  4. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  5. Everything But The Girl – Temperamental
  6. Chicane – Behind the Sun
  7. Kraftwerk – Die Mensch-Maschine
  8. 1 Giant Leap – 1 Giant Leap
  9. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express
  10. Kraftwerk – Computerwelt

Eight years of stowaways

So it is that we limp past the eight year mark for this blog. Little did I think, all those years ago, that it would still be going after all this time. Well, it barely is – I used to post every day, then every weekday, then a few times a week, and then the fun of the lockdown meant I barely had any time to slow down and listen to music, let alone to write about it.

But I can’t really complain – I’m still here, eight years on, looking back at over two thousand posts of general music-related drivel. I was going to post something linking back to the first post, but I see now that it was about Pet Shop BoysWinner, which I always thought was unfairly derided, but it was hardly one of their finest moments. So let’s do this instead, which definitely is – here’s Thursday:

Chart for stowaways – April 2020

April was the month when the lockdown really started to hit, and when the chart consequently slowed right down to a crawl. There really weren’t too many changes from March, apart from some fun re-entries from the likes of Moby and New Order. With so few changes, it’s probably worth just focusing on the albums this time, which on 11th April looked like this:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  4. Nightmares On Wax – Smokers Delight
  5. The Orb – Abolition Of The Royal Familia
  6. Caribou – Suddenly
  7. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  8. Moby – 18
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Battleship Potemkin (OST)
  10. David Bowie – Is It Any Wonder

Chart for stowaways – March 2020

With the start of the lockdown, March was a quiet month, with Pet Shop Boys solidifying their grasp on the upper reaches of the charts. Hotspot held onto the top of the album chart for the whole month, and Monkey business, Will-o-the-wisp, Musik, Dreamland, and Happy people all performed well on the single chart. Opportunities (Let’s make lots of money) even poked its head onto the Catalogue Singles chart briefly.

The Beloved continued to perform well too, with Where it Is following at number 2 for the whole month, a firm grip onto the top end of the Catalogue Singles with Forever Dancing and If Only, and Grin even grabbing the number one spot on the singles chart for a couple of weeks.

Other than that, things were really very quiet, with Depeche Mode and Air throwing occasional re-entries into the lower reaches of the Catalogue Singles, Albums, and Artists charts, and the odd new entry here and there. Here are the singles from 21st March:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Will-o-the-wisp
  2. The Beloved – Grin
  3. Frances Barber & Pet Shop Boys – Musik (Original Cast Recording) – EP
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Monkey Business
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Happy people

And here are the albums:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  4. Caribou – Suddenly
  5. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins

Pet Shop Boys – Stuart Price Trilogy

When Pet Shop Boys reappeared with Electric in 2013, it was the shortest gap between albums in their career. Despite that, it seemed like a new beginning – leaving their former career-long label Parlophone and starting afresh with their own label, their comeback took place just nine months after its predecessor. Even the artwork seemed fresher, younger, and more modern.

There is, as many people have said before me, nothing new under the sun. With Elysium (2012), there had been a clear attempt to revitalise the lush beauty of Behaviour (1990), and so one way of looking at Electric would be that it was ostensibly an attempt to revisit Introspective (1988). Finding new form by revisiting the past isn’t anything new either.

Maybe part of the reason for the freshness in their new sound was the collaboration with Stuart Price, the electro-dance genius behind Les Rythmes Digitales, and so it was welcome news shortly after Electric appeared that this would be a trilogy. Trilogies are not, of course, something that Pet Shop Boys do. They never even really worked with the same producer more than once or twice, until now.

Either way, Electric was great – maybe you don’t agree that it was flawless, but at least it sounded fresh and different. The tracks were long, and breaking the mould of the last couple of decades, there weren’t twelve of them on the album – there were only nine. There was Thursday, a beautifully epic weekend piece with Example as a guest vocalist, and there was even a cover of a Bruce Springsteen track.

Three years would pass before the follow-up, and what’s interesting listening to Super (2016) is just how good it is. I think I realised that when it first came out, but fell out of love with it for a while. Somehow it felt like a pale imitation of Electric, but that’s not fair – if the first album was the underground dance entry in the trilogy, then this is the synthpop one, but that doesn’t mean it’s vacuous. In retrospect, our expectations were probably just a bit raised after Electric. The pop kids is a fabulous lead single, and Twenty-something typically incisive.

Creativity takes time sometimes, and so the third entry in the series, Hotspot, took another four years to appear, finally turning up in early 2020. I haven’t reviewed it yet here, mainly because I don’t think I’ve really digested it yet. It has many of the signature sounds of the previous pair, but it’s really the odd one out in many ways – this is the concept album in the series. For the most part, it’s Pet Shop Boys‘ ode to Berlin, and as I’ll probably explain when I do get around to reviewing it, that makes it very special to me. But then you suddenly get Burning the heather, a song that seems much more at home at Neil Tennant‘s rural home in the north of England. It’s funny – I feel as though I understand this album pretty well, and I would defend it to the hilt, but it also seems a bit of a mess in places.

What strikes me is that the end of this trilogy puts us at a natural endpoint for Pet Shop Boys. I hope that’s not true – I hope this is just the closing of another chapter, but it feels as though they’ve given us some classic, revitalised Pet Shop Boys over the course of this trilogy, and now they’re working with young retro remixers, recording unreleased songs from before they were famous, and giving us an album where the only clear statement seems to be “this is our life right now”. Of course, in a sense, that’s all any album ever is, and so whatever the next chapter holds, it could be very interesting indeed.

Please take a moment to look back at my reviews of Elysium and Electric. It looks as though I haven’t quite got around to Super yet, and I’ll try to get onto Hotspot as soon as I feel I’m ready.