Dricography: Ranking Very

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Drico One
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Dricography: Ranking Very

#1 Post by Drico One » Sat 29 Sep 2018, 12:08 am

Late September 1993 found me in the midst of a four-year economics degree course. Whatever the charms of the IS-LM model, aggregate demand, and the backward-bending supply curve of labour, my obsession that autumn was far more compelling: the new Pet Shop Boys limited edition album, Very Relentless.

High on the huge success of Go West, there was a sense that Neil and Chris were hitting another peak. The new release was set to top the chart, and the nagging fear that the relative commercial failure of Behaviour would herald their demise had dissipated. Can you forgive her? had returned them to the top 10 after a 27-month gap – an eternity in an eight-year pop career – and Go West had just missed out on the number one spot, a bittersweet result when there had been high hopes of a fifth chart topper. Bittersweet suited them at the time. There always had to be that twinge of melancholia amidst the euphoria.

We didn't know it at the time – but some of us suspected that this would be their last great hurrah, a second wind reminding us of their imperial majesty five years after their popular peak. A Spitting Image appearance confirmed their return to the zeitgeist. On first listen, my suspicions were confirmed. Very, a marvelous fizzy pop record, contained no other obvious hit singles. In 1993, this mattered. The commercial renaissance would not be sustained – but four million album sales would buy them the time we needed. I just wanted them to hang around and make records for me.

The singles, artwork, videos, and vitality of this era mark it out as a commercial and artistic high. I have always considered the Behaviour-Very phase their absolute zenith. Those two magnificent albums are the bookends of a period that also featured Performance and Discography. Behaviour was more high brow, but Very melded commerce and art in a way that its predecessor couldn't. Yet, the Very epoch wasn't without its failures. Absolutely Fabulous was crassly self-indulgent. Disco 2 compiled their worst collection of remixes to date. Go West moved them out of the mainstream whilst simultaneously conquering it one last time.

But there were some tremendous tracks during this time. Here is my top 10 in reverse order.

10. One thing leads to another

Famous for its clever reverse storytelling, it's the hypnotic rhythm giving way to the rapturous crescendo that I find most entrancing about One thing leads to another. That they stuck this away on Relentless tells you just how imperious they were in this period. It doesn't even feature on Further Listening, which I suppose adds to the collectability of the limited edition companion album. In a time when they were shedding their mystery, this track is a reminder of how intriguing they often were and still could be.

9. A different point of view

In many ways, Very is utterly throwaway. This track is arguably the best example of that disposability. Yet, I mean that in the best possible sense. This is intoxicating bubblegum pop of the carbonated variety, simultaneously touching, vibrant, and bursting with uncontrollable energy. As with so much of their best material, the explosive musicality is accompanied by a tale of woe, longing, and thwarted desire. I still think this should have been a single, just to remind the world that they were still utterly immature.

8. Too many people

More disposable bubblegum – it was that kind of era – but this is irresistible bombast married to a navel-gazing lyric that shows why Neil Tennant is so endearing. Very was noted for its b-sides. This one was hidden away on the third single, but it pops with frenetic energy and self analysis. I've always loved Neil for his mannered neuroses. Here he's trying to work it all out without much success. I love the confusion of it all, the sheer basic human inadequacy at play while Chris stabs dementedly in the background like he's soundtracking a particularly schizophrenic shower scene.

Tune in next time to hear nobody say, "If love were all is an underrated gem." In the meantime, feel free to dissect, disagree, or ignore. You're most welcome.

Drico.
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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#2 Post by Drico One » Sun 30 Sep 2018, 12:07 am

7. I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing

There's a touching optimism and carefree vibe about the third single from Very, an affectionate portrayal of an emotionally stilted, deeply self-conscious individual going vaguely and very publicly mad when finally falling in love. Perhaps this is what liberation really is – the ability to escape one's personal conventions, constraints, and limitations.

6. Forever in love

The outstanding highlight of Relentless, this thrilling, intriguing, and mysterious track possesses the fabled "moment of ecstasy": a climactic euphoric rush of serotonin beats and shadowy exciting possibilities.

Bereft of any trace of melancholia, this is a rare enough example of unadulterated panglossian adrenaline in their catalogue. Whatever is going on in the crepuscular shadows sounds very interesting indeed. Yet, this is essentially another in the long line of Pet Shop Boys songs of escape – or imagined escape, because, with Neil, escape is usually more of a deeply felt aspiration, a thought process, than a followed-through reality.

Here we have our windswept hero contemplating never going home again. In the oblique Relentless version, which I consider definitive, this takes an even more conspiratorial tone as there's precious little else said - or done. However, there is an escape of sorts here – in the mindless, intoxicating oblivion of falling in love. As with I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing, it seems that the escape Neil seeks isn't to be found on trains to London, or by crossing bridges and tunnels in New York after all, but in falling in love.

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#3 Post by daveid » Sun 30 Sep 2018, 1:03 pm

Unadulterated panglossian adrenaline is a great b side working title.

Sorry...do carry on.

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#4 Post by Pod » Sun 30 Sep 2018, 10:03 pm

The working title that will become ‘Shadowy, exciting possibilities’.
Just for the sake of it, make sure you're always frowning. :|
It shows the world that you've got substance and depth.

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#5 Post by Drico One » Tue 02 Oct 2018, 11:30 pm

5. The theatre

I remember hearing this for the first time on BBC Radio 1's Pet Shop Boys Day, a few weeks before the release of Very, its epic, cinematic grandeur immediately apparent. There's a Walk on the wild side vibe to the backing vocals, an insistent, dramatic cacophony contextualizing the grim realities of street life as Neil contrasts the cultural preoccupations of the well-to-do with the daily struggles of runaways. If Neil has escaped to London on the train, his arrival has opened his eyes and disabused him of some of his more romantic notions. In my view, this track is notable more for its musical qualities than the story it recounts, which never really skewers Phil Collins or the Tories as cleanly as it wants to. Lacking the wit and mystery of many of their records, this track leans heavily on its fantastic musical production which envelopes you as it progresses.

4. Shameless

Neil says this was intended for the album – but it is surely one of their greatest singles that never was. A glorious, satirical romp that was years ahead of itself, this b-side had the temerity to compete with it’s a-side, Go West, in the ludicrously-over-the-top-and-down-the-other-side stakes. The sheer scale of Shameless, a biting critique of vacuous, z-list celebrity culture that predicted the cancerous reign of Simon Cowell and the witless triumph of brass-necked ambition, still marvels. A naked Neil – something of a motif in this era - makes an appearance, hilariously so as Chris seems to elongate the frenetic synth line in mock terror just as our prime plastic protagonist threatens to disrobe. I love them when they are this playful, simultaneously mocking and celebrating the absurdity of life when life, clearly, is far too important to take seriously.

3. Dreaming of the Queen

If Very has one overarching theme, it is surely absurdity. People are dropping dead left, right, and centre, but the Queen and Princess Diana have popped by for tea and Neil is in the nakedy nude (again). The whole preposterous tale is recounted in a suitably stately manner, with carriages arriving and departing as if to lead a funeral procession. The characterisations of the royals are wonderfully nuanced, with the "old Queen" disapproving and "aghast" while a tearful, empathetic Diana appears to possess enough insight to reveal the reasons for the apocalyptic nightmare that's unfolding around us.

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#6 Post by ype » Wed 03 Oct 2018, 9:58 am

Thanks for the good read. I suppose Go West and Can you forgive her? are 2. and 1.? Or will we see a surprise appearance by Hey headmaster? :-)

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#7 Post by G_Goalden » Thu 04 Oct 2018, 10:22 am

Very is my favourite album - like you I was in the middle of a degree and this takes me back to my student flat in Leeds.

I have always thought that the Electronic album is an essential part of the 'Behaviour to Very' timeline. I think that Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr's influence is all over Very (as was PSB's influence on Republic - interesting both also include a song called 'Young Offender)

Great review so far - though I disagree a little about 'The Theatre' - I think this is one of their best songs (tho to be fair I would struggle to pull together a ranked order as I love all the songs). The only one I would flick through on a playlist is 'Go West' but that's because I'm a snob and its gone beyond being a PSB song. I heard it in a farm shop on Sunday much to my children's amusement!

Great thread!

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Birmingham 1989 | Blackpool & Birmingham 1991| Savoy 1997 | Sheffield 1999 | Middlesbrough 2002 | Manchester 2006/9 | Manchester 2013 | ROH 2016 | RAH 2017

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#8 Post by nickname » Sun 07 Oct 2018, 3:05 pm

Drico One wrote:
Tue 02 Oct 2018, 11:30 pm


4. Shameless

Neil says this was intended for the album – but it is surely one of their greatest singles that never was. A glorious, satirical romp that was years ahead of itself, this b-side had the temerity to compete with it’s a-side, Go West, in the ludicrously-over-the-top-and-down-the-other-side stakes. The sheer scale of Shameless, a biting critique of vacuous, z-list celebrity culture that predicted the cancerous reign of Simon Cowell and the witless triumph of brass-necked ambition, still marvels. A naked Neil – something of a motif in this era - makes an appearance, hilariously so as Chris seems to elongate the frenetic synth line in mock terror just as our prime plastic protagonist threatens to disrobe. I love them when they are this playful, simultaneously mocking and celebrating the absurdity of life when life, clearly, is far too important to take seriously.

One of the big mistakes of PSB career, it sounded like a perfect opener to the album "Very". The intro works perfectly, it even includes a "hello" there. Even better with "Can you forgive her?" like second track.

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#9 Post by joe stalin » Sun 07 Oct 2018, 5:54 pm

I presume the last two are
2) Can you Forgive Her
1) Young Offender

And I wouldn’t argue with that one bit

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#10 Post by y3potential » Sun 07 Oct 2018, 7:52 pm

I've never really liked Shameless. I love the sentiment behind it regarding pointless Z List fame, and you only need to look around now at the narcissistic morons from Big Brother, Love Island ect, but it always sounded like a PSB's parody - a Spitting Image song almost. Perhaps that was the point..
Do you know the difference between the two genders..?

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#11 Post by Philby2 » Mon 15 Oct 2018, 3:49 am

Agree that 'A different point of view' should have been a single.

When the then radio 1 breakfast show presenter, Mark Goodier, announced it as the first song played as part of their "Pet Shop Boys Day", it leapt out of the speakers with an energy and urgency that pretty much defines those feelings for me to this day.

I love you more than you love me never sounded sound so original and vital.

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#12 Post by York Minster » Tue 16 Oct 2018, 4:38 am

Shameless never appealed to me either. It's perhaps the very first example of a "big production" from PSB that fell flat. For all the attempt at normally good PSB attributes like snearing attitude and kitchen sink production, I find it simply annoying. The chorus in particular is a dud.

A Different Point of View is one of those tracks where you might listen one time and hear all that crazy production value and bleeps and bloops and house piano and think how lovely. And then on another listen you realize how annoyingly linear the melody line is over very basic C chords. It's got a great window dressing, but single? For the best it wasn't. I think if someone covered the song in a different genre it would reveal the weak songwriting. Has anyone covered it? Well here try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdVrvg-pEf0 I couldn't sit through it.
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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#13 Post by rabagast » Tue 16 Oct 2018, 11:55 am

York Minster wrote:
Tue 16 Oct 2018, 4:38 am
A Different Point of View is one of those tracks where you might listen one time and hear all that crazy production value and bleeps and bloops and house piano and think how lovely. And then on another listen you realize how annoyingly linear the melody line is over very basic C chords. It's got a great window dressing, but single? For the best it wasn't. I think if someone covered the song in a different genre it would reveal the weak songwriting. Has anyone covered it? Well here try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdVrvg-pEf0 I couldn't sit through it.
I disagree. This is one well written song. The verse having a very jazzy chords structure, with those major seventh chords. Then the chorus with an effective use of repetition, and the middle eight being classic PSB, drifting off directly from the chorus in a very clever way, again deploying those major seventh chords theyt vere so fond of back then.
Imagine this song done in swing jazz, would have worked spledidly.

If one is to search VERY for generic, lazy songs, the "closest thing to lazy" is One and one make five......

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#14 Post by Tom Angel » Tue 16 Oct 2018, 3:07 pm

The great lost single here is Young Offender - it would have been far better than Yesterday, when i was mad. That jarred at the time and it still does. I suspect they were rather pleased with it at the time, but it's the weakest track here

Lyrically Young Offender would have perfectly captured the zeitgeist moment for me - leaving him to, well, play computer games
in suits or sequins/or twin sets and pearls

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Re: Dricography: Ranking Very

#15 Post by TallThinMan » Tue 16 Oct 2018, 7:27 pm

rabagast wrote:
Tue 16 Oct 2018, 11:55 am
York Minster wrote:
Tue 16 Oct 2018, 4:38 am
A Different Point of View is one of those tracks where you might listen one time and hear all that crazy production value and bleeps and bloops and house piano and think how lovely. And then on another listen you realize how annoyingly linear the melody line is over very basic C chords. It's got a great window dressing, but single? For the best it wasn't. I think if someone covered the song in a different genre it would reveal the weak songwriting. Has anyone covered it? Well here try this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdVrvg-pEf0 I couldn't sit through it.
I disagree. This is one well written song. The verse having a very jazzy chords structure, with those major seventh chords. Then the chorus with an effective use of repetition, and the middle eight being classic PSB, drifting off directly from the chorus in a very clever way, again deploying those major seventh chords the were so fond of back then.
Imagine this song done in swing jazz, would have worked spledidly.
I agree. And the C, F, C chord change at the end of the chorus is pure sixties pop. I seem to recall them saying at the time that the way Neil had written it it was a very twee song originally and that Chris was trying to mess it up with all the bleeps and bloops.
rabagast wrote:
Tue 16 Oct 2018, 11:55 am
If one is to search VERY for generic, lazy songs, the "closest thing to lazy" is One and one make five......
The first time I heard it I thought the verse chords were straight from Harvest for the World.

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