Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

For general discussion of Pet Shop Boys topics.
Message
Author
User avatar
Drico One
Posts: 5402
Joined: Tue 16 Sep 2003, 8:56 pm
Contact:

Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#1 Post by Drico One » Tue 23 Oct 2018, 10:32 pm

Nightlife, emerging in early October 1999, was the last Pet Shop Boys album I had to buy before hungrily devouring its hidden treasures. With my portable CD player in tow, I bought it in HMV and quickly slipped in the disc to be transported to a world of quiet, euphoric despair.

I don't think you can downplay the importance of an online fan presence at a time when their commercial fortunes were in steep decline. The Introspective mailing list was very much in full flow in 1999, but the new Dotmusic forum was clearly the way forward. This very Community traces itself to that. But this isn't just some nostalgic point about us. The Internet completely changed the fan experience.

I posted an excited review of Nightlife to the mailing list on the Friday night, three days before the release of the record in the UK. At the time, I recall feeling that I discussed the record online almost as much as I listened to it, whereas in the past my fandom was largely solitary, with plently of exposure to mainstream media. The Internet was an outlet that connected totally different people from totally different parts of the world – and all because they loved Pet Shop Boys. That was quite something at the time. It still is, but we take it for granted now.

When the first single limped into the chart at number 15, fans could immolate collectively and prognosticate on the imminent demise of their fallen heroes. How cathartic. Even better, such commercial failures provided ample opportunities to speculate on where it all went wrong. Had the Internet existed in 1987, I'm not sure the quality of discussion would have been up to much. In 1999, people thought that Neil and Chris were down the toilet, not merely the dumper, and this really concentrated minds. Funnily enough, it was the making of us. In the past, Pet Shop Boys had been central to the cultural zeitgeist and very present in mainstream media. By 1999, that had changed. It would have been very lonely without Dotmusic.

Nightlife's a very dark album in many ways, and whatever love is spoken of is deeply and disturbingly unrequited. The sheer variety of styles make it an intoxicating listen, but this record took them further into camp and a ghetto largely of their own making. In some ways, I blame the musical, which really only produced a couple of worthwhile songs. Some of the song titles of this era could have been parodies, yet the despair, darkness, and demented euphoria here lifts the album above its sometimes tacky inclinations.

Here's my top 10:

10. Closer to Heaven

There are a number of good songs on Nightlife that could have been great. Happiness is an option, for example, is let down by Neil's preposterous rap featuring Russians in forests, chats with flowers, and what must, at the time, have seemed like smart ruminations about not suiting one's face. Despite the excellent production and stormy crescendo, it all just seems a bit forced and less than the sum of its parts. It lacks the precision of some of their better-executed ideas. Similarly, Closer to Heaven seems undercooked. There's a tune here, and a good one at that, but it all seems half-hearted and as limp as our protagonist, who we find wallowing in self pity and victimhood.

9. The ghost of myself

If Happiness is an option was their take on Coolio, this is their riff on Britney – and it's great precisely because the story told here doesn't seem remotely insincere. Arguably one of their all-time great b-sides, this is a poignant tale of a former life which ended when a fork in the road provoked a choice that led up a different path. There's something simultaneously life-affirming and sad in this story about identity, and the demise of the depicted relationship, conveyed with almost stark indifference ("You packed up your stuff and I went to the V&A"), seems both lamentable and necessary. Watching his former self make love to his girlfriend brings home the magnitude of his youthful confusion. Does he have a tinge of regret, if not for the outcome but the misstep that must surely have caused some hurt? This is an affecting song depicting the numerous possibilities of life and how these possibilities seem so much wider when you are young.

Drico.
The pale kid that hides in the attic behind his PC...

User avatar
deekay
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon 30 Aug 2010, 9:59 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#2 Post by deekay » Tue 23 Oct 2018, 11:05 pm

The best song on the album was the one with Kylie and I can’t even remember the name of it. Haven’t listened to it in maybe 10 - 15 years. One of their poorer offerings.

User avatar
y3potential
Posts: 601
Joined: Wed 20 Jul 2011, 8:21 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#3 Post by y3potential » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 1:29 am

deekay wrote:
Tue 23 Oct 2018, 11:05 pm
The best song on the album was the one with Kylie and I can’t even remember the name of it. Haven’t listened to it in maybe 10 - 15 years. One of their poorer offerings.

In Denial. A decent tune that would have been improved if it had a stronger female vocalist. Kylie Minogue is no Dusty Springfield..!
Do you know the difference between the two genders..?

Palpatine
Posts: 1850
Joined: Sat 27 Mar 2004, 6:39 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#4 Post by Palpatine » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 1:42 am

Nightlife is my least favourite PSB album but that era holds many fond memories for me. Dotmusic, Mike Fiorenza, spaceman, etc. Hard to believe it's been almost 20 years.

User avatar
York Minster
Posts: 5315
Joined: Thu 21 May 2009, 2:47 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#5 Post by York Minster » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 4:51 am

I don't think In Denial will be making Drico's list, rightfully.

Closer to Heaven is near the top of the era for me. Not much depth, but the production, oh the production. If the album didn't open with that 1-2-3 punch it would have very little to support it's existence.
And tryin' to figure out what happened to 'Germaine Propaine'
"He couldn't have fell off that hard" Ain't no way
"What happened to the way you was rappin' when you was scandalous
That Canibus turned into a television evangelist"
Plus he raps with his regular voice [BOOSH! BOOSH!]
[BOOSH! BOOSH!] (What was that?) Pet Shop Boys

Tom Angel
Posts: 3130
Joined: Sat 04 Feb 2006, 3:09 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#6 Post by Tom Angel » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 2:07 pm

A classic case of poor song selection

Including For all of us and The ghost of myself alone would have improved it - and dropped the droopy Footsteps and serious piss-poor anodyne shadow of a tune The Only One. It's the only abysmal song in their catalogue. It kind of mopes along like it's heavily aware that it has no presence.
in suits or sequins/or twin sets and pearls

User avatar
SynthMan Wales
Posts: 65
Joined: Sun 03 Jun 2018, 10:55 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#7 Post by SynthMan Wales » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 3:31 pm

They should have got Rollo to produce the entire thing, IMHO.

Didn't Rollo publicly say that Happiness Is An Option wasn't a very good song, or something similar?

He could have been their Stuart Price for the late 90's.

TallThinMan
Posts: 649
Joined: Sun 04 Jun 2006, 6:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#8 Post by TallThinMan » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 5:49 pm

Tom Angel wrote:
Wed 24 Oct 2018, 2:07 pm
A classic case of poor song selection

Including For all of us and The ghost of myself alone would have improved it - and dropped the droopy Footsteps and serious piss-poor anodyne shadow of a tune The Only One. It's the only abysmal song in their catalogue. It kind of mopes along like it's heavily aware that it has no presence.
Poppycock. The Only One is much better than I Made My Excuses and Left.

Tom Angel
Posts: 3130
Joined: Sat 04 Feb 2006, 3:09 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#9 Post by Tom Angel » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 5:57 pm

I hate to say it but you clearly think that Tall Thin Men is good too ;-) :shock: …wink:

I've tried to like Happiness Is An Option , but it's just a bit crap. But at least it has more character than The Only One

Good use of poppycock though - that would be a good PSB album title
in suits or sequins/or twin sets and pearls

User avatar
York Minster
Posts: 5315
Joined: Thu 21 May 2009, 2:47 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#10 Post by York Minster » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 10:07 pm

There are some very duff tracks on the album. But have always liked Footsteps. I guess the "footsteps in the dark, only love can break your heart" part isn't the best, but the rest of the song has gorgeous production. One of the best bridges of all time too.
And tryin' to figure out what happened to 'Germaine Propaine'
"He couldn't have fell off that hard" Ain't no way
"What happened to the way you was rappin' when you was scandalous
That Canibus turned into a television evangelist"
Plus he raps with his regular voice [BOOSH! BOOSH!]
[BOOSH! BOOSH!] (What was that?) Pet Shop Boys

User avatar
Drico One
Posts: 5402
Joined: Tue 16 Sep 2003, 8:56 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#11 Post by Drico One » Wed 24 Oct 2018, 10:39 pm

8. It doesn't often snow at Christmas

As novelty tracks go, this is a lovely frivolous bonus. The calling out of Bing Crosby as the charlatan he clearly was is marvellous, and the general miserablism at play would warm the hearts of every embittered curmudgeon fed up with having A Wonderful Christmas Time rammed down their throats. With all the happy clappy guff that passes for seasonal fare these days, the effrontery of Neil and Chris to tell it as it is never fails to warm the cockles. And yet there is a lovely sentiment behind it all. Because by having the integrity to call out the utter piffle that surrounds the "official" version of Christmas peddled by chancers, the declaration of affection for his loved one ("I'll still have a glow at Christmas because I'll be with you") seems all the more sincere as a result.

7. New York City boy

On its own merits, this is a perky fun track with lots going for it. Live, it is a revelation and that's where it seems to make most sense. As a second single, and the one to herald a new album, it pushed them squarely down the side streets that led to the ghetto. We had Go West and A Red Letter Day in 1993 and 1997, respectively. By 1999, the male-voice choir schtick was running low on gas. I've always liked this track much more for what it is than for what it seemed to represent in the popular consciousness. There's an excitement here that's infectious, but it's a camp frolic too far in terms of any pretence to broaden their fanbase. The haunting shots of the twin towers in the video really hit home when viewed from 2018, but much of it is utterly naff and a million miles from the acerbic cool of the 1980s. That, more than any middle-aged man singing wistfully about a boy's adventure, is what sticks most in the craw.

Drico.
The pale kid that hides in the attic behind his PC...

Devices
Posts: 173
Joined: Fri 09 Apr 2004, 4:36 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#12 Post by Devices » Thu 25 Oct 2018, 5:58 am

I'm another who feels that while Nightlife is one of my least favorite PSB albums, it is the 1999-2000 era that stands out the most in my memory. I suspect it is because as mentioned by Drico, the novelty of the internet totally changed the fan experience. For the first time I actually felt connected to other fans, instead of feeling as if I was one of their only fans in the world. Now I really felt the pain of the overseas fans when the first two singles made 15 and 14, while before they were just numbers on a paper in Billboard that were probably almost a month out of date by the time I read them. I could stream UK radio stations online and cringe with disappointment that now that I had access to them, PSB weren't being played anymore. I could engage in lengthy brainstorming sessions with other fans about why PSB's commercial fortunes were suffering and what could be done to turn it around. It was all such a big deal to me at the time.

User avatar
Undertaker
Posts: 8839
Joined: Thu 30 Oct 2003, 9:16 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#13 Post by Undertaker » Thu 25 Oct 2018, 10:08 pm

It was 1999 when Neil asked Chris if it was time to give it all up, wasnt it?

I've always thought Nightlife was decent. A few duds. Vampires being one of the better tracks. The demo even better.

The TOTP's performance of New York City Boy was awful though.

Who was that melt that was gobbing off on the net about having New York city boy and playing it to fans down the phone, claiming it was the best song ever?

User avatar
Patrick Bateman
Posts: 8546
Joined: Sat 12 Apr 2008, 4:35 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#14 Post by Patrick Bateman » Thu 25 Oct 2018, 11:35 pm

Jesus, imagine if that had been their last single.

Palpatine
Posts: 1850
Joined: Sat 27 Mar 2004, 6:39 pm
Contact:

Re: Dricography: Ranking Nightlife

#15 Post by Palpatine » Fri 26 Oct 2018, 1:00 am

Undertaker wrote:
Thu 25 Oct 2018, 10:08 pm
It was 1999 when Neil asked Chris if it was time to give it all up, wasnt it?

I've always thought Nightlife was decent. A few duds. Vampires being one of the better tracks. The demo even better.

The TOTP's performance of New York City Boy was awful though.

Who was that melt that was gobbing off on the net about having New York city boy and playing it to fans down the phone, claiming it was the best song ever?
Mike Fiorenza, aka Gobbz.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider] and 29 guests