The Pet Shop Boys are a band of two halves – Neil and Chris; serious suits and silly headgear; a glorious ’80s pop past and a constantly reimagined electronic future.
As singer Neil Tennant talks about a new series of reissued albums and an unheard track, those contrasts – which have always kept the band interesting – are as apparent as ever.
He looks back at how they have always looked forward. He has a lingering affection for old-fashioned physical music while admitting to succumbing to Spotify.
He doesn’t like Ed Sheeran but says the singer should be allowed to dominate the charts. He wants you to buy one set of reissues but says not to bother with another.
The ones he’s on the phone to talk about are 1999’s Nightlife, 2002’s Release and 2006’s Fundamental, which are being remastered and reissued this month with copious bonus tracks.
One of those is One-Way Street, a previously unreleased demo from the Fundamental sessions, which Tennant says he offered to Bananarama at the time – but has now decided he rather likes.
Their first six albums, which were re-released with similar bonus discs in 2001, are also getting another reissue. But if you already own the first remastered versions, you can save your money, the singer suggests.
Does going through the vaults bring back memories?
It brings back a lot of good memories. It was a lot of fun and people often ask Chris [Lowe] and I how the whole thing has lasted so long. We always have the same answer, because it’s true: We actually really enjoy going to the studio and writing songs together.
It is work but it’s also play, and I think when you listen to the newly reissued stuff you can see that we write in different styles and we experiment and we always write more stuff than we need for an album.
Do these albums strike you as being better or worse than you’d remembered them?
Happily, they seem to me to be better than I remember. When you work on an album and do promotion for it, you can get fed up with the whole thing after a while. And then you don’t really listen to it again very much because you’ve spent so long making it and then talking about it.
Listening back to Fundamental, I felt really pleased because it’s quite an epic album and it’s the only time we ever made an album which has got a strong concept.
We wanted to make an album that reflected what the world was like in the wake of 9/11, the Iraq war and the increasing surveillance techniques used by governments on their own people. It was a paranoid period and actually I think it expresses it quite well.
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