In honour of the new Pet Shop Boys single “Winner” we’ve been blogging like bastards about our 10 favourite PSB songs of all time, in no particular order. Each blog has an A side (which made our top 10) and is followed by a B side (a song so good it nearly made it – and would have for any band not as good as the PSBs). For introduction and general love letter to the band click here.
A Side – Left To My Own Devices
One useful litmus test for whether a pop act can really be called great is whether they write songs that only they could have written. We love Coldplay at PopLifer, but let’s be honest: it’s not that hard to imagine Travis coming up with “Yellow” or Keane concocting “Fix You”. But it’s impossible to imagine anyone but The Beatles behind “A Day In The Life”, anyone other than The Smiths forging “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” or anyone except the Pet Shop Boys writing “Left To My Own Devices”.
Who else but Tennant and Lowe could have conceived of this epic combination of swirling strings, pounding dance beats and shamelessly smart-arse lyrics ? The verse’s elegant demand for the freedom to create leads to a chorus so sweeping, confident and uplifting that it becomes obvious that demand has paid off in style. Easily one of the most magnificent songs in the Tennant/Lowe canon, as well as the source of one particularly hilarious image: that of Neil Tennant coming home from a hard day’s slog, pouring himself a beer and watching a boxing match. The video is similarly rich in probably unintentional hilarity. Key lyric: “But in the back of my head I heard distant feet/ Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat.”
B Side – I Get Along
On a musical level, it isn’t impossible to think of another band writing “I Get Along”, although they’d have to be wildly gifted. From the PSBs least electronic album, “Release”, “I Get Along” is built around some sweet Johnny Marr strumming and a plangent piano motif, and doesn’t sound as utterly distinctive as their usual material. Lyrically, however, only Tennant could have chosen to write about the poisonous falling out between New Labour architects Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair and reframed it, hilariously, as a tragic love affair. The fact he matched these words to one of the loveliest and most heartbreaking melodies of his career is what makes “I Get Along” so utterly gorgeous, and one of the few moments of near perfection in their tricky “noughties” period. Key lyric: “Now I know you’d much rather be/ With rock royalty/ Instead of someone like me.”