Chart for stowaways – 2 March 2019

Here are the week’s top singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Agenda EP
  2. Ladytron – Horrorscope
  3. The Beloved – It’s Alright Now
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Flying Totems
  5. The Radiophonic Workshop – Arrival Home
  6. Ladytron – Far from Home
  7. Ladytron – The Animals
  8. Gesaffelstein feat. The Weeknd – Lost In The Fire
  9. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
  10. Dave Gahan – Saw Something / Deeper and Deeper
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Pet Shop Boys – Yes etc

When they get things right, they get things very right, and when Pet Shop Boys released Yes, a decade ago this week, they were slap bang in the middle of one of those periods. Ironically, the fans were a little unsure of Yes, initially finding the overproduced and happy sound of Love etc a bit hard to handle, but the acceptance of Outstanding Contribution at the BRIT Awards just a few weeks before this album’s release proves to me that they were at the top of their game. And Yes, by the way, is brilliant.

What nobody could dispute was that This used to be the future is up there among their finer works – so good, in fact, that it’s tempting to wonder why it wasn’t included on disc 1 of Yes. Instead, it launches the second disc with some deep and dark electronic sounds. After a very lengthy introduction, Neil Tennant turns up with a brilliantly uplifting vocal, singing half of a verse before a strangely familiar voice turns up. Is that Chris Lowe? It is! Great to hear him taking part in a duet! Then Tennant delivers the chorus, and then another familiar voice – it’s Phil Oakey, of all people! It doesn’t need anything else – clearly this is going to be a great track.

I do understand, actually, why this wasn’t on Yes – it’s a slightly silly sidestep, which sees Tennant and Lowe collaborating with one of their heroes and really just having fun. The fact that it’s brilliant isn’t really the point – a lot of Pet Shop Boys‘ most cunningly hidden b-sides are among their best tracks (Always, I’m looking at you), and in a way that’s always been part of their charm. But I do wonder where this fits – maybe in a parallel universe Electronic didn’t drift off into the awful rock of Twisted Tenderness, and instead became the synth supergroup who released things like This Used to Be the Future. I can dream.

Which isn’t a bad idea, actually – the rest of Yes etc is made up of broad dub versions of album tracks, starting appropriately with the Magical Dub of More than a dream. This is one of the best tracks on the main album, although you don’t really get a lot of that here. In a way the trouble with dub mixes is that you really need to know the original pretty well already. So this is great, but it is a little lacking in context if you listen to it on its own.

Strangely, that isn’t true of The Stars and the Sun Dub of Pandemonium, which is immediately brilliant. It pretty much only includes that one lyric (“the stars and the sun”) and yet somehow reflects the original track more than adequately – it’s less experimental, which you somewhat expect of a dub version, but entirely brilliant.

As with the originals, these are, for the most part, excellent versions – apparently Pet Shop Boys were channelling The Human League‘s interesting Love and Dancing remix album here, but I think they go beyond it slightly – while that one has more big hits on it, that’s also its downfall somewhat, coming across at times like more of an extended medley than a remix album.

Next here comes the Left of Love Dub of The way it used to be, which falls somewhere between the preceding two in terms of how easily accessible the track is. If you know how great the original song is, though, it’s easy to love this dub. Which is the point really – you wouldn’t own this remix if you didn’t own the album already, so that’s fine.

I think I’m unusual in not entirely loving All Over the World – somehow it never quite works for me – the classical and electronic elements seem shoehorned together, and the vocal doesn’t quite fit either. The poorly named This is a Dub version is faithful in this regard, anyway – it’s fine, but doesn’t quite work as a remix for me.

When a dub version works well, it reminds you why you love the original track, without giving you too many clues. Vulnerable is my favourite track on Yes, and the Public Eye Dub does exactly this for me – it’s representative of the original without being the original. It still contains all the lovelier instrumental elements, such as the guitar twirls and huge synth backing, but it pulls them apart, extends them, and is just generally great.

The promo singles from this album include a number of dub versions of Love etc, which is more likely than not where the idea for the Yes etc bonus disc came from in the first place. The Beautiful Dub is probably the best of these, retaining the huge bouncy synths of the original, with just surges of vocal every few beats. It’s got everything – there’s even a retro eighties breakdown in the middle. Beautiful is an appropriate name.

So Yes etc is entirely unnecessary – it’s nowhere near as interesting as even the worse of the Disco albums, but if you appreciate the original versions, it’s also entirely great. Don’t you wish everybody would package their albums with a bonus disc of dub versions? No, me neither, but you can’t deny that it’s an interesting idea.

I thought you might struggle to find this now, since it’s a limited edition and there’s a much newer version of Yes that doesn’t include it, but it seems Yes etc may still be available, if you poke around.

Chart for stowaways – 16 February 2019

Here are the top singles for stowaways this week:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Agenda EP
  2. The Beloved – It’s Alright Now
  3. Ladytron – Horrorscope
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Flying Totems
  5. Ladytron – Far from Home
  6. The Radiophonic Workshop – Arrival Home
  7. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
  8. Gesaffelstein feat. The Weeknd – Lost In The Fire
  9. Ladytron – The Animals
  10. David Bowie – Breaking Glass

Preview – Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys are back, with either an abject failure or typically spot-on piece of social commentary, mainly depending on how left or right leaning you are politically. One thing that most people seem to agree on is that the second track from the Agenda EP, On Social Media, is fantastic. They’re also promising another album later this year.

Chart for stowaways – 5 January 2019

Sorry for the slight delay – here’s the first singles chart of the new year:

  1. Ladytron – Far from Home
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Flying Totems
  3. The Radiophonic Workshop – Arrival Home
  4. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
  5. The Beloved – It’s Alright Now
  6. Ladytron – The Animals
  7. Lady Gaga – Judas
  8. The Beloved – The Sun Rising
  9. Saint Etienne – Camel Coat
  10. Pet Shop Boys – Christmas

Greatest Hits 2019

Time now, at the start of the year, to explore some of the reviews you might have missed in the last year or two. Here’s a selection…