The interesting thing about Pet Shop Boys‘ “disco” series is the fact that there’s really no rhyme or reason to it – despite using the same branding, they seem to reinvent it every time. Disco (1986) was a collection of six 12″ mixes and b-sides from the debut album Please, then Disco 2 (1994) was a megamix of tracks, mainly from Very. Disco 3 (2003) was the dance accompaniment to the previous year’s guitar-driven Release, and finally (to date) Disco Four (2007) is a compilation of Pet Shop Boys‘ own remixes of songs by other artists. Well, some continuity might be nice here.
Anyway, having got that out of the way, let’s give Disco Four a listen. It opens with the Stars Are Blazing mix of The Killers‘ Read My Mind. Neil Tennant has a habit of adding his own backing vocals whenever they remix other people’s tracks, which doesn’t always work, but here it does. This isn’t so much a remix as an electronic re-thinking, as for the most part it’s probably more radio than club-friendly, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.
David Bowie turns up next, with a version of Hallo Spaceboy that had only appeared commercially for the first time in 2004 on the double-disc reissue of Outside – for some reason when the single appeared originally it was demoted to a promo-only version. It’s great to finally hear this version of one of Pet Shop Boys‘ finest collaborations in its full seven-minute glory.
Next they turn up with one of their own, the download-only single (and minor hit) Integral, heavily reworked for this release. Depending on your perspective, this is either a nice inclusion or a bit of an oddity, as they suddenly turn up remixing themselves.
Yoko Ono might be spectacularly crazy, but Walking On Thin Ice is a pretty good track, and the Pet Shop Boys remixes that accompanied the 2003 reissue are truly exceptional. Here we get their Electro remix, with an enormous LFO bass line and huge synth swells. It’s completely and undeniably fantastic.
Next Madonna turns up, with Sorry, from 2006. Pet Shop Boys were clearly in their element around this period, taking other people’s tracks and throwing huge 1980s bass parts and robotic voices all over them. It’s difficult to fault, unless you want to pick at Madonna‘s awful pronunciation of “sorry” in various languages, and that was hardly the remixers’ fault.
Next are Atomizer, whose 2002 single Hooked on Radiation appeared on Pet Shop Boys‘ own record label, including this, the Orange Alert mix. It’s a catchy track with a great synth line, but nothing particularly special. Perhaps unsurprisingly, pretty much nothing has been heard of Atomizer in the decade that has followed.
Rammstein, on the other hand, had long since achieved legendary status when Pet Shop Boys turned up to remix Mein Teil in 2004. It’s an interesting piece, as PSB have never really delved too deeply into the world of industrial metal, and here they take the opportunity to cross genres with a bit of electroclash. In general, it works well, and doesn’t sound too awkward.
Finally, they bring us back to one of their own recent hits, I’m with Stupid, from the same year’s studio album Fundamental. The Maxi-mix is longer, full of electronic breakdowns, although somehow it loses a lot of the “fun” essence of the original.
So all in all, Disco Four is an entertaining diversion. It’s nice to see some of the various remixes by Pet Shop Boys gathered in a single place, particularly for those like me who hadn’t been particularly diligent in collecting them as they appeared. But there’s also something a little pointless about the whole thing – were these tracks collected together for any particular reason? Ultimately, I suppose it doesn’t matter much.
Surprisingly, Disco Four seems to have fallen out of print in the last decade. Most of the tracks are available on other releases.