Monday, 30 March 2009

The Mary Onettes are back. Back! BACK!

Yes, the Swedish foursome have come in from the cold and popped a new single on the turntable. Their eponymous album The Mary Onettes is nearly TWO YEARS old! I adored it as an autumnal soundtrack, with Void (see below) turning up as one of my top twenty songs of 2007. Other tracks like Lost had me hooked on their noughties version of Echo & the Bunnymen/New Order. It's still up on their MySpace alongside the new EP title song Dare with new tracks God Knows I Had Plans and Explosions.

The Mary Onettes are GREAT songwriters. They have melody and concise, no-fucking-about arrangements. They have killer riffs and can write proper choruses. In some quarters, this might be TOO clever to be indie, but this is northern Europe where pop = art. Think of them as a Beach Boys in the snow and you'll get half the idea. The rest is a dash of bands like The Smiths, The Cure, Joy Division, Hurrah!, Icicle Works, Jesus and Mary Chain and a huge slice of their own unique grandeur.

In the summer of last year, Philip Ekström , the Mary Onettes' singer had EVERY track they'd recorded stolen from the back of his car (what IS it with Swedish thieves stealing from bands? First The Millioners and now this lot). Unfortunately, back-ups were then lost forever on a suicidal hard drive. But despite the crushing loss, they regrouped and re-recorded the new album, of which, the Dare EP is the first taste, out on April 29th.

Here is their newest song below. Dare is a child of the 80s, a grandiose thing apparently recorded in a church. The opening guitar chords remind me of The Pretenders' Back on the Chain Gang...

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This a live version of a track called Henry from their debut album.

The Mary Onettes~Henry from LaundroMatinee on Vimeo.

And here is my favourite...
The Void - The Mary Onettes (zShare)

The Mary Onettes MySpace

Sunday, 29 March 2009

The cult of Fenech-Soler

In October last year I wrote about these boys, Fenech-Soler. At the time, I described their sound as "electro without the re-wiring... pop without the bubblegum". I was also astounded that were producing such accomplished music, here on their MySpace, being 20 years old and unsigned. Things have changed. One or all of them may have turned 21, but they have also been SIGNED. French dance supremo Alan Braxe has them on his Vulture label and the first release will be out on 11th May!

On the strength of the brilliant The Cult of Romance, an album won't be too far behind. I've loaded a widget of the track below for you to judge for yourself. It's a remix by a guy called Combo and hopefully indicative of where their sound is going. This is a BELTER of a song with hooks aplenty and tons of panache.

The Cult of Romance

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Follow the band on twitter in the lead up to their debut release and look here and here for more Fenech-Soler.

The stylish, creative pic above is by Elisha Smith-Leverock. They should get a whole load more done by her. Now!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

"You need more than the Gerhard Richter hanging on your wall..."

And so FINALLY I get my copy of Yes etc. (the bonus disc version of Yes) through the post from HMV this morning. For the first time ever, I have a disc that actually warrants its DELUXE status. From the deluxe varnished gloss packaging with a deluxe fragrance to the deluxe dub versions of 6 Yes tracks and the major-deluxe new track This used to be the future, Pet Shop Boys have created a truly classic album. Neil has said in recent interviews it's his favourite, and it's easy to see why.

The packaging, as ever, is an art form in itself, inspired by Gerhard Richter's 4900 Colours: Version II. Mark Farrow, PSB's longtime Art Director says: "Although the Richter paintings look stunning on a gallery wall, as an idea for a CD cover it felt a little tired and we felt we had ‘been there’. The tick was obviously inspired by the album’s title Yes. Reducing the title to a symbol that encompassed the other elements the band had requested just seemed to work; it’s instant and memorable and pop.". Go here to Creative Review for a small featurette on the ideas and execution of the design for Yes.

Track by track, here are my thoughts on etc. For my original Yes album review, go here.

This used to be the future

A clever mix of PSB and Human League circa Travelogue musically and lyrically. This is a MAJOR track; a PSB classic, stomping and urgent and sweeping at the same time. Chris Lowe has a great voice. I thought it was Phil Oakey at first, who sounds very at home here.

More than a dream (Magical dub)

A future Ibiza choon. The cathedral-like chord stabs would sound fantastic in an open-air club in the summer, like an old school Perfecto mix. Neil's "aaahs" never sounded sweeter (fnar fnar).

Pandemonium (The stars and the sun dub)

Johnny Marr's harmonica is given star billing in this thumping track. The glam rock backing could mix easily into a bit of Sweet...

The way it used to be (Left of love dub)

My favourite track on Yes gets a treatment dripping in even more pathos leaving you crying at the discotheque as Neil plaintively repeats "What is left of love?"

All over the world (This is a dub)

The least successful of the dub versions here. It still has the grandeur of the original whereas the dub could have given it a lighter feel. The synth brass in the last minute or so should have been the building blocks for this track.

Vulnerable (Public eye dub)

Brooding and menacing, this is actually BETTER than the original. Without the verses, the "So vulnerable without you" refrain takes on a stalker-like status. I'm scared.

Love etc. (Beautiful dub)

After the multitude of mixes already out there, a different track from Yes would have been a better choice. But this version is an accomplished and highly listenable Xenomania effort.

And last week I posted a competition to win a copy of the Love etc. CD single - still shrinkwrapped in their original state from the Trocadero HMV store in London and two contributing sales to PSB number 14 placing on the UK singles chart. Thanks to everyone who took the time to take part. Your names were put in a hat and drawn by an independent ajudicator - as they say on the National Lottery. The two lucky winners are... *drum roll*

Jason Schafer
John Gannon

They correctly answered the question, "What is the CD single's b-side?" which was: Gin and Jag. I'll be getting in touch for your addresses today. Well done!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

"Hello, I'm Julian and this is my friend, Sandy..."

If you've ever called someone or something 'naff', gone down to the pub for a 'bevvy', sat on the 'khazi' or spoken the 'lingo', you've stepped unwittingly (or wittingly) into the world of Polari. It's a language created and spoken out of necessity, a coded gay lexicon in a time when it was illegal to be an omi-palone (gayer) and queer bashing was a national pastime. Morrissey may have brought the language back to prominence with his album Bona Drag (nice clothes) in the nineties and Queer Eye For the Straight Guy may have 'zhoosed' their victims in the noughties, but we have to go back to the sixties, for the best, and greatest exponents, Julian and Sandy.

Julian And Sandy were two gay characters on the BBC radio sketch show Round the Horne. Every Sunday afternoon, most of the country would listen to their cheeky, saucy London banter, mostly unaware of the true meaning. Their Polari was the theatrical version, where even an "Ooh" was a double entendre, dripping in inuendo. Hugh Paddick and Carry On star, Kenneth Williams played these two out-of-work actors who each week would be called on by Kenneth Horne for their services, usually found in the classifieds but almost entirely innocent. He'd usually be greeted by Sandy with a flourish and a "How bona to varda your dolly old eek" (It's good to see you).

Here's a sketch where Mr Horne is looking for an exotic pet and finds their shop, Bona Pets, in Chelsea...

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And this one is Rentachap...

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I'm sure Kenneth Williams would be horrified to be described as the "queen of camp". I've never heard ANYONE call him that. Anyhoo, here's a clip of a documentary about the Julian and Sandy sketches.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Spring is in the air and Pet Shop Boys are Number 1

I took this in Green Park on Sunday at the start of the first week of release for Yes - and this post is a blatant copy of this one. Ha!

But look! What's this? Who'd have thunk it. The Boys are number one in iTunes. And according to Music Week, they're topping the midweek album sales too. If all goes to plan, this will be their first number one album since Very in 1993! Current chart positions from all around the world are just as healthy:
Germany 2
Austria 3
Switzerland 2
Belgium 3
Holland 5
Sweden 1
Finland 2
Norway 7
Denmark 5
Italy 6
Spain 5
Greece 2

You can buy at HMV here with the deluxe edition Yes etc. selling for a very reasonable £12.99. Apparently, more of this highly sought after version have been pressed and are winging their way into the shops.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


And so yours truly has been well and truly twittered. You can follow me here. Pop in, tweet and then pop off. Bona!

The funniest tweet today? Antigone quoting a Viz character: "Fireman Fritter - he's got twitter up his shitter!"

PS... apropos nothing, PET SHOP BOYS AT NUMBER ONE!!!!!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Come on, Emmon!

Emmon's album Closet Wanderings has been out a couple of months now. Unfortunately, it seems to be passing under everyone's radar, which is a shame. Perhaps an overseas release will give it the recognition it deserves as an accomplished electro collection. With a new album by Marsheaux imminent and the success of La Roux and Little Boots in the UK charts, now is the perfect time to push Emmon onto a wider stage again. Her debut album The Art & The Evil garnered worldwide recognition and she needs to build on that success. Closet Wanderings is strong enough to do just that. The lead-off single Secrets and Lies is a tour de force in combining electro pop with the energy of electro dance.

Here's a track (on a natty new widget I found) from Closet Wanderings, called Insomnia, a pulsing broody little number. Review here. Go buy the album here.

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Saturday, 21 March 2009

WIN! A CD single of Pet Shop Boys' Love etc.

At the beginning of the week, these little beauties were like gold dust but thankfully, someone pulled their finger out and there are tons in the shops now. But if you still can't get hold of the CD version of Love etc. then fear not. I have two right here looking for a good home. And you can rest assured that you'll still be contributing to the PSB chart position tomorrow as I bought them today from HMV in Picadilly. Just answer this simple question to win.

What is the b-side track, only available on the CD version, called?

Send your answers to

I'll draw the winners next Saturday. Good luck!

Here's a review of Yes on the BBC's weekly Newsnight Review from last night with a preamble interview about the album. Music journos Tony Parsons, Miranda Sawyer and author Jonathan Freedland give their take the new output. Miranda likes four of the tracks and near wets herself over Did You See Me Coming?

Friday, 20 March 2009

Dance masters, gone... but not forgotten

Dance acts, inherently, are one hit wonders. A club favourite becomes a chart hit and that's yer lot. Some, like Leftfield, Orbital, Faithless, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy said "Bugger that", became a bona fide act on the back of albums and gone stratospheric; guaranteeing their place in the dance pantheon as masters of the genre. But what about the acts who also delivered so much but had their place so cruelly snatched away by the ravages of time. Bizarre Inc., Chicane and Underworld will just about scrape in, but here are three others, gone... but not forgotten.

Their Slid single provided Sasha with his trans-global sound and pushed dance music down a more sophisticated route. But far from being confined to sunnier climes like Ibiza or Goa, Fluke sounded just as fantastic in a shithole in Rochdale. This is another single from the consistently brilliant Six Wheels on My Wagon which at 15 years old sounds surprisingly spritely. The chart hits came later courtesy of Lara Croft, by which time the slinkiness had gone in favour of industrial drill music.

Groovy Feeling (Make Mine a 99) - Fluke (zShare)

This Essex band were a favourite of Mixmag who came through raves and clubs and became a chart act who never quite stuck. The tracks were hits on every level and very radio-friendly, but despite singer Lucia Holm's 90s hippy looks, the band had no image. Great logo though.

Perfect Motion (Boys Own Remix) - Sunscreem

Gargantuan was another 1993 classic dance album in the same vein as Fluke's Six Wheels: sophisticated, gorgeous and clever. Spooky had loads of tracks from this album played in the clubs, so much so, they all sounded like singles. Something Leftfield very obviously picked up on later and had a lot more success with.

Land of Oz - Spooky

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Adele's 'aving it in the US of A

The Observer Music Monthly's cover feature was a brilliant pictorial of Adele's recent adventures in the US. The hit album, the sell-out world tour, the Grammy and BRITS awards, this girl has lived ten years in one. Quite amazing. Like her counterpart Duffy, it'll be read in years to come as evidence of how quickly a debutant becomes, in Simon Cowell's words, "a major worldwide recording artist." OMM's photographer followed her as she guffawed her way through a tour and the Grammys.

America hearts UK female singers: "I'm proud to be part of it, and I love all the other girls"

She's 'aving a FAG! Never a truer word as a gaggle of fans in San Francisco still can't dislodge the ciggie from her gob as she signs autographs. Star.

Famous fans get special treatment: Slash asks Adele if she's seen his band. He last saw them twenty years ago.

Cinderella eyes the killer heels picked for her by Vogue; part of her new celeb lifestyle which still strikes her as odd: "The whole idea of being a celebrity: doing my own TV show, launching my own perfume... I suppose I could bottle my piss!"

She wears fame well.

Fame = courtside seats = an embarrassed Adele.

At the Grammys, Adele and Duffy both made a beeline for each other: "We just screamed. We were so excited. She was a little bit of home on what was the most surreal day ever."

"Mum! Mum! Can ya facking believe it... yeah! TWO!"

This gorgeous shot is like a Whistler painting. An even with no one around her, she looks happy and very at home with herself.

Well, burger me. She don't care: "I hate fashion! I had to tell [Anna Wintour] I've got four bums...".

It's been a long day. In bed with Obama and a Marlboro Light. Klassy.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Pet Shop Balls up

In the week of a flurry of PR by Pet Shop Boys, it appears logistics - the distribution of the CD version of Love Etc. - could render most of it pointless. It may only be day three of the first week, but everyone has been caught out: the punters looking for said CD (there are none), the shops (they haven't ordered enough), the online shops (they haven't ordered enough) and the record company (they haven't produced enough). All of this is symptomatic of the CD single's demise, but in this case, and after all the money, time and energy spent so far, I find it hard to believe that there has been such a stupid cock-up. And why produce a track only available on this elusive CD? On HMV's website, they're out of stock for another seven days. Whoops. There goes a chart position.

The digital classification on iTunes is also causing problems. Looking to buy Love Etc. in Top 100 songs? It's not there. The digital bundle offers two superfluous tracks which means it appears in the iTunes ALBUM chart as an EP.

Flo Rida will go back up to number one this week. Most of his 18,500 sales are digital and 2,500 of them are through mobile downloads. Pet Shop Boys have 6 mobile phone downloads. There will be five times more than 2,500 wanting a PSB CD and there aren't any available but if you want to be the seventh person to purchase the track via your phone, that's fine. It's there. The music industry needs understand it caters for ALL needs during this time of change, which, as is made very clear by this situation, isn't going to happen overnight.

Love Etc has popped up on iTunes Top 100 Songs list overnight (thanks for the pointer, Robbie) at number 36.

**UPDATE PART DEUX** From Pet Shop Boys' Twitter just after 6pm Wed 18th March: "EMI have assured us that Love etc should be back in the shops now."

Monday, 16 March 2009

FREE! Parralox remix!

This month sees the release of Parralox's HUGE single Sharper Than a Knife. I say huge because there's no less than 19 versions on sale! Well, here's the 20th remix. Totally free and available for download below with the blessing of the band themselves. It's actually a remix I did as part of a competition from the end of last year. Despite not having made the cut (believe me when I say the standard was VERY high - 19 versions more to be precise!) the instrumentation backing Roxy's vocals is totally original and only adds to your Parralox collection! Check out more of my stuff at MySpace here.

The single recently got a thumbs aloft from the Dame Perez of Hilton which resulted in 8,500 extra plays on their MySpace that day alone. It all bodes well as John records the new album with new vocalist Amii (left) and new bassist, the legendary Ian Burden of The Human League. Roxy's taking a back seat for a while to concentrate on personal stuff, so bon chance, duckie! Now if Phil Oakey could be persuaded to sing on a track that would be extra special, even if he is being a guest vocalist ho at the mo. Go listen to Hotter and I Am Human over on TheirSpace now.

Sharper Than a Knife (phileastend RMX) - Parralox (zShare)

Pre-order/buy your copy of the single here.

phileastend MySpace here.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Mamma Mia! It's French and Saunders

In their last ever - surely the last of 'the lasts' - TV sketch together (avec Dame Lumley and a plethora of other star turns) French and Saunders do Mamma Mia The Movie. It's a fitting end, really. Their film spoofs were top notch and defined their act and this one is no exception. Having said that, I'm sure at some point in the future, like Comic Relief 2025, we'll see pensionable F&S come out of retirement for just one more go, a bit like this.

Part One

Part Two

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Pet Shop Boys: front cover stars

PSB mania, played out in the media and right here, is never-ending at the moment. The Guardian Weekend - the paper's colour supplement and a very superior one at that - has the boys on the front cover. The interview is online at right here.

Quotable quotes...

"Pet Shop Boys are forever enshrined in the collective imagination as these two stony-faced men who look a bit pissed off at being wherever they are" - NEIL

"I was reading in a book about EMI that we were their most successful artists in the world in the second half of the 80s, but nobody told us at the time" - NEIL

"Outrageous sportswear is far too young for how old I am now [49], but I can't help it. Those are the clothes I like and I'm not going to compromise. You can't help the clothes you like" - CHRIS

"You have to signpost these things. [On why Neil has never caught the tabloid newspapers' interest] Some people instinctively talk loudly on the bus on their phones so everyone can hear what their saying and some people don't. Well that's what fame's like - people do it as a deliberate strategy, whether or not they think they're doing it. There's no reason people shouldn't be like that, it's a great thing, a great thing for the media that people are like soap operas. You could have made a soap opera out of us, but we didn't do it in public. The Pet Shop Boys don't talk loudly on our phones on the bus." - NEIL

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Daggers R.I.P.

Oh no! Totally gutted - and vare out of the loop seeing as this happened at the end of January. Daggers are NO MORE! Sob. The Manchester band had so much going for them: great songs, great look, great front man, great live sound but unfortunately, no album. And that's what probably finished them off. This was their short, but sweet, suicide note.

I stumbled on them through Paul Lester's New Band of the Day column on The Guardian. And wrote my first post here. And then every so often, they popped up again as I kept you abreast of what they were doing. Songs like Money and the last one to appear on TheirSpace, Better Than Love were clever, accomplished pop songs, so it's a shame it's all come to nothing. I was only just listening to Money this morning thinking, this is fucking great. Hey ho.


Saturday, 7 March 2009

The 'Yes' Popjustice playback verdict!

Yes, it was a very special night. Yes, the album is brilliant. Yes, Popjustice did a lovely thing by organising it (the pic above is PJ's Peter Robinson taken from Chris' phone) and yes, it was surreal seeing Neil and Chris in the room as if they'd been invited around for a cuppa.

At the ICA last night the new PSB album, Yes, was played in its entirety and the Boys grilled afterwards. It was a strange affair. Dad-like burlies frisked everyone going in, despite having us handing in every electronic device on our person. Good job my love eggs weren't picked up, I'd be mortified! Anyhoo, a big screen with the Yes tick and PJ logo was a reassurance that we weren't in some totalitarian state. Peter Robinson made a very valid point about the joys of hearing an album for the first time, namely, that it's a rarity these days and when you get the chance, take it, hence the reason for the playback. A girl later said to me in a bar afterwards that the tracks "could have had more visuals" (the screen only displayed the album cover and name of the track playing) but then she missed the point, really. This was a listening opportunity. Anything else would have been a distraction.

And on a PA loud enough to be heard outside the amphitheatre (nil points on the security there lads), the Xenomania production sounded very beefy. But my biggest crticism is Neil's vocals were drowned in sound on the more frenetic tunes. His voice is clear and crisp, but on some tracks it sounded like he was singing with a mouthful of socks. The diction had gone and it was hard to decipher any words. Having heard snippets on iTunes, this isn't on the actual recordings, thank goodness.

The album overall is an amalgam of 25 years of PSB, which is quite fitting, really. There are influences and snatches of their whole canon in there. Whereas each previous album had a certain 'sound', Yes has a Xenomania sound but a PSB arrangement. That should be fairly obvious, but in a way, it was probably accidental. The 60s bubblegum arrangement of Beautiful People could be Xenomania doing Can You Forgive Her?. Track by track, here are my brief thoughts before more detailed reviews come flooding in...

Love Etc.
See my review here.

All Over the World
Everything and the kitchen sink on this upbeat world-lovin' track. Very Se a Vida é.

Beautiful People
Not sure about this one. It's very pop, but in a far more obvious way than I'd ever expect. It could be a grower...

Did You See Me Coming?

Vare Pet Shop Boys in tone and subject matter: gurning love to a disco beat. I'd like to see the old lady Mail reader jigging around and giggling to lines like "I saw you there in the nude" as she knocks back her seventh gin and tonic.

A sweet song but definitely album filler.

More Than a Dream
One of my favourites from the evening. The melodies are sophisticated with a killer bridge to the chorus.

Building a Wall

Another album filler but impossibly catchy.

King of Rome
I ADORE this track. Neil's vocals are suitably ethereal on a bittersweet, lush backing track. The strings are heart-wrenching.


Apparently, this was written for Kylie when her management asked them to write some tracks, Neil revealed in the Q&A later. It got the Boys all excited (they'd also been asked to write for Madonna the same week, "But then we got told to forget it as they'd decided to shove her down the R&B route"). It would suit her down to the ground. But on PSB shoulders it sounds even better. Men singing about chaotic boyfriends means so much more!

The Way it Used to Be

MY FAVOURITE!!!! This is a slick disco thumper dripping in pathos and yearning. Strangely, it reminded me of the S Club 8 track, Fool No More

This would be a track to switch off, seeing as it comes at the end and is slightly grating. But the sublime refrain/chorus "And you, you'll get over it" is marshmallow comfort.

The Q&A afterwards was a mixture of interesting, entertaining and tedious. The interesting factor was the PJ readers' questions, the entertainment came from Chris Lowe's goofiness but the tedium came from the host Peter Robinson's decision to treat it like a TV interview full of his own questions to segue the topics into each other. There was no need. This was a room full of fans, all with questions they've never heard asked before. Peter's questions prompted the kind of responses we've heard many times whereas a fan question like "Which of your albums hasn't stood the test of time?" got a nicely defensive and suitably prickly response from Neil: "We don't think like that. All our music is good". There weren't any MAJOR revelations, therefore, but it was a nice jolly chat. Neil's pontifications on the whole 'year of electro' thing were enlightening: that this is why they were given the BRITS award but there was scant evidence of Little Boots et al denting the charts yet, "unfortunately". Peter Robinson was a very genial host, however, and audience members who liked the sound of their own voices (why do people love that sort of thing?) were given short shrift. The whole thing finished slightly abruptly (the venue rudely signalled to finish off before the cloakroom close. How vare Briddish) and everyone ambled off with Chris going off in completely the wrong direction. Bona!

The pictures of the event were taken by Chris on his phone for the brand new petshopboys Twitter account which apparently he has taken on board himself to keep up to date. I was just chopped off on the left in the audience pic. Gee, thanks.

Pet Shop Boys' "trojan horse" free CD in "ghastly" Mail on Sunday

"Sellout!" barked a girl at the back of the audience at yesterday's Yes album playback at the ICA in London after asking why Pet Shop Boys collaborated with the UK's "bigoted" Mail on Sunday newspaper. Tomorrow's issue will see an especially compiled and packaged set of 10 hit singles and a track from the new album but the boys were unrepentant. Far from being a sellout, Neil saw the it as an opportunity to reach a million people: "Two and a half million CDs are being pressed, but a million and half will probably be thrown away. The other million will either remind people that they like Pet Shop Boys or introduce us for the first time to a younger audience. If little Johnny's granny or someone buys it and gives him the CD to play and he likes it, who are we to complain?". He then went to explain that in this day and age, older bands had to "fight" for their position and this included free giveaways in newspapers regardless of their political leanings.

He went on to remind the girl that all the press in this country is questionable in some way and admitted that the Mail on Sunday and its daily equivalent is "particularly ghastly". But he likened their effort as a "trojan horse"; a subversive infiltration of the paper. Chris Lowe jokingly told him to hush when, at the end, he shouted, laughing:"The Mail is GHASTLY, there's no getting away from it".

Neil said the Mail had approached them with the idea to come up with the package. Their designer, Mark Farrow, produced the cover, "Which", he said, "we thought would never get approved, but it did". It also allowed them to feature two of their favourite "overlooked" hits, Before ("Chris has always adored this one") and Home and Dry ("Which I just think is beautiful"). The track listing is as follows:
1. West End Girls (10" mix)
2. Paninaro (7" mix)
3. It's a Sin (Disco mix)
4. What Have I Done to Deserve This? (7" mix)
5. Jealousy (7" mix)
6. Being Boring (7" mix)
7. Go West (7" mix)
8. Before (7" mix)
9. Home and Dry (7" mix)
10. Flamboyant (7" mix)
11. Did You See Me Coming? from Yes

I was there at the Popjustice event and will post more later...