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.


Paul said...

sounds like:
a) this was THE place to be on Friday night


b) it was a fairly brilliant evening.


c) however you look at it, it was the coming together of two british pop institutions - Pet Shop Boys and Popjustice, peppered with people who genuinely love their music.

Very. Jealous. Actually.

D'luv said...

Dammit. Now I gotta finally cave in and join Twitter. And pinch Peter Robinson on the ass.

DanProject76 said...

I saw a bit about this on Twitter (where I now live) but this was a great report. Hurrah!

xolondon said...

Paul got the best pun there, that bitch.

thanks for the review - I will be referring back to it!