Sunday, February 27, 2011

Essential Albums of the '80s: Pet Shop Boys - Please (1986)

The Pet Shop Boys were the best among the '80s purveyors of synth pop, electronic music sitting somewhere between the intersection of new wave and dance pop. Please was their first album and immediately established the blueprint that has changed little in the 25 years since.

Contrast has definitely been a characteristic of their work and that is reflected here, as boldly dramatic pop songs like "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" sit nicely with quietly romantic songs like "Later Tonight." Upbeat pop melodies like "West End Girls"--their best-known song--and downbeat tunes like "Violence" (later remixed as b-side to 1993 single "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing") help establish their range of moods. Lyrically, you never quite know what you'll get with them. Are they being ironic or sincere? Sometimes its hard to tell, but many of the themes that resonate throughout their music start here, from the personal romantic yearnings "Love Comes Quickly" to the light social commentary of "Suburbia."

Although I wasn't into Pet Shop Boys in the '80s, I later became a big fan of theirs in the mid-'90s (they were big at my college) with Very (my favorite of their works) and their greatest hits Discography being my first tastes of their compelling sound. I have all of their albums since.

Best: West End Girls, Opportunities, Love Comes Quickly, Violence, Suburbia

Further Listening - Actually (1987)
Released a year later, Actually isn't much different from Please, embodying a similar mix of upbeat, downbeat, flow, fast, sincere and ironic songs with top-notch synth-pop production work. "It's a Sin" became their second UK #1 and third US top 10 hit, although the song I like best on this album is their Dusty Springfield collaboration, "What Have I Done to Deserve This," which after "West End Girls," is their second-best single from the '80s. Best: What Have I Done to Deserve This, It's a Sin, Heart, Rent, King's Cross

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