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.

Chart for stowaways – February 2020

February was the month of Pet Shop Boys‘ intriguing homage to Berlin, Hotspot, which started the month off by entering at number 4, and then stole the top spot from Sparks, holding onto it for the rest of the month. They also did the double, with Dreamland holding onto the top spot for another three weeks and then relinquishing it to Monkey business at the end of the month.

This was also the month when The Beloved saw debut release Where it Is finally hitting the charts, deservedly spending the whole month in the top three. Singles Forever Dancing, If Only, and Grin all performed well, the first of those taking the top of the Catalogue Singles chart and also peaking at number 4 on the main chart.

Otherwise this was generally a month for introspection, with new releases by David Bowie, Marc Almond, and Ben Watt all performing well but failing to shake the acts at the top. Here are the singles from 22nd February:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Monkey Business
  2. The Beloved – Grin
  3. Pet Shop Boys feat. Years & Years – Dreamland
  4. Frances Barber & Pet Shop Boys – Musik (Original Cast Recording) – EP
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Almost

And these were the albums:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  4. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  5. Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstasy

Chart for stowaways – January 2020

I’m afraid this won’t be a huge comeback quite yet, but I did want to check in with everyone. Hope you’re doing well in spite of the current difficulties. Let’s take a look back at the charts for stowaways from back in January.

January saw Pet Shop Boys dominating the singles chart, with Burning the heather grabbing the top spot for one week, and then Dreamland returning for the rest of the month. Decide and Monkey business floated around in the top ten as well. Vince Clarke‘s astonishingly good remix of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark‘s Almost kept it in the top three for the whole month, and Sparks‘ new 7″ release of Let’s Go Surfing spent the month steadily climbing as well. Both also spent the whole month holding onto the top two of the new Catalogue Singles chart.

Sparks also dominated the album chart, with their wonderful three-disc reissue of 1995’s Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins holding onto the top spot for the whole month, and their new Past Tense singles compilation holding the number two spot. It was a quiet month all round, with Hot Chip holding onto the number three spot as well.

Here are the singles for 18th January:

  1. Pet Shop Boys feat. Years & Years – Dreamland
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Almost
  3. Sparks – Let’s Go Surfing
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Burning the heather
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Decide

And the albums:

  1. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  2. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  3. Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstasy
  4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
  5. The Radiophonic Workshop – Burials in Several Earths

Chart for stowaways – Albums 2019

These are the top albums for stowaways for last year:

  1. Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstasy
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe Infinity
  3. Ladytron – Ladytron
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Planet Jarre
  5. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  6. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Re-Imagined)
  7. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  8. Kylie Minogue – Step Back In Time – The Definitive
  9. The Future Sound of London – Yage 2019
  10. Dido – Still On My Mind
  11. Erasure – Wild!
  12. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
  13. The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
  14. The Radiophonic Workshop – Possum (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  15. Madonna – Madame X
  16. Divine Comedy – Office Politics
  17. Rammstein – Rammstein
  18. The Prodigy – No Tourists
  19. Pet Shop Boys – Inner Sanctum
  20. Lighthouse Family – Blue Sky In Your Head