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The Pet Shop Boys released their debut hit, West End Girls, at the end of 1985 and spent the rest of the 1980s and 1990s being Top Ten regular in the British charts. The group is comprised of Neil Tennant (vocals) and Chris Lowe (keyboards) and the duo write the majority of the songs they record as well as being involved in the production of the tracks.
There's no doubt that the group were at the peak of their popularity in the 80s, chalking up 10 consecutive Top 10 hits (including 3 of their 4 number ones) between 1986 and 1990 whilst in the 1991 - 2009 period only 10 of their 28 releases made the Top Ten in the UK.
The group released their first greatest hits compilation, Discography, in 1991. Organised chronologically it featured each of their hits released between 1985 & 1991 with the exception of a remix of DJ Culture which had charted in November 1991 after the original version had charted the previous month.
PopArt is, in essence, an updating of Discography. There are three singles missing here:- the aforementioned remix of DJ Culture, How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously (which was a double A side with Where The Street's Have No Name) and Discography's closing track Was It Worth It? but all of the single releases after "Was It Was It" upto and including 2004's "Flamboyant" are included. However, with this release chronology goes out of the window with 17 of the 35 tracks featured appearing on the "Pop" CD and the remaining 18 on the "Art" CD. Neil and Chris reportedly argued amongst themselves which tracks should appear on which of the two CDs.
I don't propose to review all 35 tracks on the Pop / Art CDs as well as the 10 remix tracks as that would make for a very long review indeed so I'll just select a few of my favourite tracks and comment on them.
+++ What Have I Done To Deserve This +++
This is the track that brought 60s star Dusty Springfield back to the attention of the public and which was cruelly robbed of a UK number one by a piece of Stock, Aitken, Waterman penned pap called "Never Gonna Give You Up". Sung over a very simple backing track Neil and Dusty's vocals blend together effortlessly as they both offer their own point of view about the end of their relationship.
Neil: You always wanted me to be something I wasn't
Dusty: You always wanted too much, oh, oh
Both: Now I can do what I want to - forever
How am I gonna get through?
How am I gonna get through?
+++ Can You Forgive Her? +++
A dramatic opening courtesy of synth gives way to a tale about about the reactions of a man who's girlfriend has accused him of being gay.
Remember when you were more easily led
Behind the cricket pavillion and the bicycle shed
Trembling as your dreams came true
You looked right into those blue eyes and knew
It was love, and now you can't pretend
You've forgotten all the promises of that first friend
It's bad enough, she knows how you feel
But she's not prepared to share you with the memory
Quite why this piece of pop drama didn't do better than a number 7 placing in the UK chart is a big mystery to me as it's one of the strongest songs on the album "Very".
Neil's vocals stand up well throughout and the lyric:-
"She's made you some kind of laughing stock
Because you dance to disco, and you don't like rock"
always makes me smile, based as it is on a gay stereotype.
+++ Being Boring +++
One of the lowest charting PSB singles , this made number 20 in the UK on it's release. Sung by Neil over a backing track comprising synths, guitar, orchestral strings and a few other bits 'n' bobs this details the changing values and opinions of someone as they go through life in the 1970s to the 1990s. The 90s verse:-
Now I sit with different faces
In rented rooms and foreign places
All the people I was kissing
Some are here and some are missing
In the nineteen-nineties
is perhaps the most poignant, referring, as it does, to the people who have died from AIDS related illnesses.
My version, which is a special limited edition version containing 3 CDs comes inside a white box with the track listing on the back, and the PopArt logo. Opening the box there 3 CDs can be found in their own individual paper sleeves. These are all white, one having "Pop" on the front, one having "Art" on the front and one having "Mix". There's a booklet which contains a number of pictures along with the writing and production credits for each of the tracks on the CDs, but, personally, I'd have preferred it if the lyrics to each of the songs included has been printed rather than having 12 panels being taken up with pictures.
Putting together a Greatest Hits package can be a tricky business because fans and potential purchasers will always have opinions on any tracks that have been left out, especially if they happen to be fairly well known tracks by the artist in question. By and large, this collection avoids that pitfall with, as I mentioned, just 3 single releases not being included here. So, it's down to you, the listener, to decide which of the singles from 1985 - 2004 you want to listen to rather than that being dictated by some compiler elsewhere who's decided whatever reasons best known to them not to include various tracks. Madonna's recently "Greatest Hits" release is a case in point with various fans questioning why certain tracks have been omitted. By and large, that's not an issue with "PopArt".
So, there you go, this is an ideal purchase for anyone wanting a singles overview of one of the most successful British groups of the last 20 odd years. At the time of writing Amazon are charging £4.98 whilst Play are charging £5.00. At those prices, and with 35 chart singles included this collection can only be described as a bargain!
The tracks included in this collection are:-
1. Go West
3. Se A Vida E (That's The Way Life Is)
4. What Have I Don To Deserve This?
5. Always On My Mind
6. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing
7. Home And Dry
10. Love Comes Quickly
11. It's A Sin
12. Domino Dancing
14. New York City Boy
15. It's Alright
16. Where The Streets Have No Name (Can't Take My Eyes Off You)
17. A Red Letter Day
1. Left To My Own Devices
2. I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore
4. Being Boring
5. Can You Forgive Her?
6. West End Girls
7. I Get Along
8. So Hard
11. DJ Culture
12. You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
14. Paninaro '95
15. Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)
16. Yesterday When I Was Mad
CD3: Mix [available only on the Special Limited Edition]
1. Can You Forgive Her? (Rollo Remix)
2. So Hard (David Morales Red Zone Mix)
3. What Have I Done To Deserve This (Shep Pettibone Mix)
4. West End Girls (Sasha Mix)
5. Miserablism (Moby Electro Mix)
6. Before (Danny Tenaglia Classic Paradise Mix)
7. I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore (Peter Rauhoffer New York Mix)
8. New York City Boy (Lange Mix)
9. Young Offender (Jam And Spoon Trip-O-Matic Fairy Tale Mix)
10. Love Comes Quickly (Blank & Jones Mix)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Go West
2 Suburbia [Video Mix]
3 Se a Vida ? (That's the Way Life Is)
4 What Have I Done to Deserve This?
5 Always on My Mind
6 I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing
7 Home and Dry