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Jun 10

PET SHOP BOYS – “Heart”

Popular90 comments • 6,381 views

#606, 9th April 1988, video

The Pet Shop Boys’ last and most unexpected Number One is also their most stripped-down, in texture and mood – “Heart” is a synthpop love song of uncomplicated devotion. They wrote it for Madonna, apparently, but never offered it to her. Understandably, you might think – there’s not very much to play with here, little of the edge or contradiction Madonna laces her material with. But it might easily have worked for one of italo disco’s sweetly blank divas, or one of the colder modern students of pop, a Sally Shapiro or an Annie maybe.

I think ‘affectless’ would suit “Heart” better than ‘sincere’ – it would get the singing out of the music’s way, and the music on “Heart” is enormously enjoyable, syndrums and all. While “It’s A Sin” and “Always On My Mind” took the full-on approach, “Heart” only hints at the epic, dropping string snatches, guitar strums and chopped vocal samples in and out discreetly over its metronome disco. It’s a preview in clockwork miniature of the more expansive long-form approach the group would take on the superb Introspective, not a drum machine or keyboard out of place.

But as a song? “Heart”‘s problem is that it is a simple record – attractively so – but its delivery misleads you away from that. When PSB are in overload or sentimental mode Neil Tennant’s vocals are an anchor: here though he walks you through the song drily, spelling everything out. He sounds clever, which makes you think the song must be clever too: that there has to be some hidden side or twist to “Heart”. And of course there isn’t, which makes its simplicity feel – unfairly – like a cheat or a letdown, and makes “Heart” seem slighter than it might have been.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    vinylscot on 2 Jun 2010 #

    Surprisingly (to me anyway), I could not recall this at all until I youtubed it. I’m not much of a PSBs fan, and do think there is something of the “emperor’s new clothes” about them, this being demonstrated in many of the comments on all their popular entries.

    Some people see something special in them which is quite invisible to many others. That doesn’t mean it’s there, or that it isn’t; and I’m not making any strong categorical claim, just giving my opinion.

    I just don’t get it – this is bland; the vocals are dull and uninspiring; and it SOUNDS like the fourth single off an album.

    Tom’s piece reads like he was preparing to award a 4 or a 5, as he didn’t seem to particularly like the song. It certainly doesn’t read like a 7, so I presume the 7 is more for the PSBs than for the song itself.

  2. 32
    punctum on 2 Jun 2010 #

    #30:

    Para 1: It’s not a competition.

    Para 2: You also skip past “Within You, Without You” on Sgt Pepper, right?

  3. 33
    Tom on 2 Jun 2010 #

    #31 I headed into it thinking “6” then was reminded how much I like the arrangement (whoever said ‘more housey’ puts it better than I did though).

  4. 34
    DietMondrian on 2 Jun 2010 #

    As a huge PSB fan at the time I was delighted this reached number one but it did rather feel like they were treading water with this release. Still, it’s a likeable song with a nice silvery shimmer to it.

  5. 35
    Conrad on 2 Jun 2010 #

    This is dishwater-dull, with the jerky sub-Axel F synth riff a particular lowlight, although Tennant’s tuneless and uniquely cloying voice takes some beating in that regard.

    I think, having read the comments (many from commentators whos’ opinions and reviews I enjoy reading) on the PSB’s 4 number one singles on Popular, that they may well be the single most overrated pop group of all time.

  6. 36
    Alfred on 2 Jun 2010 #

    I don’t get the remarks that they dropped their guard here or that the song boasts a “lack of subtext.” The stuttered, sampled vocal (AH-AH-AH-AH) sounds like counterpoint to what on paper DOES look like lyrics without subtext; Tennant’s having fun with the idea of being in love (which is not to say he isn’t in love; as with so many PSB songs he’s both observed and observer). And the slightly wistful way in which Tennant’s voice ascends when he sings, “I MEAN what I say I’m in LOVE WITH YOU” gives the next line (“You don’t know what it means to be with you”) an extra layer of meaning: is he complaining or boasting?

    I’ve learned to love this over the years. On Actually this is a throwaway, but the single remix is an 8 or 9. Where it really works is between “Always On My Mind” and “Domino Dancing” on Discography. Apart from the awesomeness of the sequence, you can see a narrative: he’s comfortable enough with his lover to smirk through the relationship…until the doubt starts to creep in.

  7. 37
    thefatgit on 2 Jun 2010 #

    Album Track Skippers! Oooh I’d…grr they make me SO ANNOYED…(which is mildly annoyed really in the greater scheme of things) but if I’m listening to an album, I will be patient with the less loved tracks knowing that something better is coming up. If an album was put together to be listened as a whole, then it’s worth listening to as a whole. Granted, I own some albums where there are only a couple of “good” tracks on there, but then I play them rarely. I have an mp3 playlist of “good” album tracks, but at least I won’t be skipping them!

    Whereas a certain young lady (daughter aged 22) who occasionally will get a lift from me, will be itching to press the skip button on my car stereo if there’s a song she:
    a) doesn’t like
    b) doesn’t know
    c) knows it preceeds a favoured track.

    Failing that, she’ll bring her own mix CD which she also skips merrily through! AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!

    rant over

  8. 38
    Alfred on 2 Jun 2010 #

    B-side Alert: “I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)” is one of their best.

  9. 39
    wichita lineman on 2 Jun 2010 #

    Re 35: which comments suggest they are over rated? There’s a lot of PSB love on here, some qualified, almost all rational (I think Tom might be the biggest fan of all), and they’ve generated some healthy hearty argument. All for the good.

    I loved them at this point – the ‘Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat’ line on Left To My Own devices explains why – and delivered with such deadpan applomb! I thought it was a potential career ending 45 (as in it couldn’t be bettered), and then they gave us the emotional Behaviour which I dug out on a recent West Country motoring holiday. It’s sadder than I remembered, more streamlined than its predecessors which both sound a little thin and clattery to me in 2010, and entirely unironic. The backward step of Very was a big disappointment, and (as they happily admitted) recorded to appease people who didn’t like Behaviour. Bah. That broke the spell for me.

  10. 40
    AndyPandy on 2 Jun 2010 #

    This is the first song Number One we’ve reached that I never realised had got to Number 1 or even heard of before (the first since about mid-1972 when I became conscious of the charts anyway).

    I gave it a listen on Youtube and may have vaguely heard it before but that’s about it.

    I’m really surprised that this has happened as early as 1988.I thought it would have happened for me sometime in the early 1990s.

  11. 41
    Hofmeister Bear on 2 Jun 2010 #

    The end of the ‘Imperial Phase’, has Tennant would have it. Their following release is probably my favorite PSB single as well.

  12. 42
    swanstep on 3 Jun 2010 #

    @punctum, fatgit. On skipping tracks… ‘Within you without you’ is great, but, for example, I skip over ‘Sloop John B’ on Pet Sounds, I’m sure I’ve only listened to the White Album from beginning to end once or twice (otherwise editing the experience just as has everyone else I’ve ever known), and I never knew *anyone* to play the duet with McCartney ‘The Girl is Mine’ on Thriller beyond a first listen. And let’s not even get started on the truly sprawling cds that seem completely misguided if you *don’t* end-edit them, e.g., Janet Jackson’s albums full of irritating inter-song chit-chat, Magnetic Fields and Sixths records full of noodles designed to test your patience, ruin your dinner party (haw haw!), etc..

    I’d guess off-hand that not 1 in 20 of the records I really like reaches such a pitch of excellence and integrity that it absolutely demands a beginning-to-end experience (often even a really good artist will only have one album that’s like that, e.g. Correct use of Soap, Second Toughest in the Infants are the only magazine and underworld records that are that way – I find their other successes are more qualified).

    I agree, however, that Low *is* an ideal candidate for top-tier treatment. It’s at least a near masterpiece, we’re all agreed. It’s no arbitrary collection of songs, rather there are real over-arching ideas being explored in it.

    I mentioned my skip policy in Low’s case because I knew that it was slightly heretical, and because my experience seemed to conflict with Punctum’s original claim that Low-‘be my wife’ would be unbearable. I’m a Low true-believer, but the album has never flowed together ideally for me: rather ‘Be My wife’ has always sounded out of place, and it ends up being easiest just to omit it. I’m of course very happy if other people can get the whole of Low to gel optimally.

    Lastly, at least in the cd release I have, Prince’s Lovesexy (w/ alphabet st on it) is sealed in a single track. This is incredibly irritating (it’s no Sgt Pepper or Off the Wall or Correct use of Soap that’s for sure). Do you guys seriously wish that this was the normal format?

  13. 43
    Tom on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I sit through “The Girl Is Mine” more often than not when I play Thriller – I’m not really sure WHY, I don’t like it any better than anyone else I’m sure, but it definitely seems part of the package.

    (I’m a big “Sloop John B” fan too, TBH I find the introspective intensity of Pet Sounds rather suffocating anyway and it breaks the mood nicely.)

    But in general I’m a track based listener not an album based one.

    The single track album thing came to mind when Pink Floyd sued EMI earlier this year to not sell their tracks individually – I remember thinking, look, if it’s THAT important why separate the tracks out?

  14. 44
    wichita lineman on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Sloop John B was tacked on by Capitol as you probably know, but I agree with you Tom.

    I can sit through David Crosby’s pompous beyond parody Mind Gardens on the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday which makes The Girl Is Mine seem like an absolute pleasure (actually I really don’t mind TGIM, but it sure doesn’t belong on Thriller).

    The tracks vs album thing surely depends on whether you grew up in the vinyl era.

  15. 45
    Chris Gilmour on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I bloody love this, and would even go as far to say it stands up better than AOMM and IAS now. To me the fact this seems devoid of the usual archness makes it all the more sincere, especially on the album, as it follows the wonderful ‘I Want To Wake Up’ which is similar in it’s uncharacteristic sentimentality. The passage beginning with ‘Every time I feel your heartbeat next to me’ with its drama chords still gets me.

    The 12” of this is a good ‘un, two 12” versions with the ‘Disco Mix’ on the A side a straight extended version of the single mix, with a long instrumental passage as the intro and more of J J Belles guitarage. The B is the ‘Dance Mix’, which being mixed by Shep Pettibone has more of a New York feel, a nice subtle piano riff and an electro-type breakdown halfway through. The 12” remix version (do try and keep up) is a little stranger, a long, dubby workout with all kinds of strange industrial noises that yeah, kind of doesn’t really suit. Another nice dub from Shep Pettibone on the flip though.

    Anyone else remember the separate Neil and Chris sleeves for the 7” and 12”? This was the first time I’d been aware of this particular marketing ploy (I know Bros later did a similar thing with a few of theirs). Bought the 12” with Neil sleeve, and as the artwork was so wonderful, was also going to buy the Chris sleeve on 7” but was forbidden by my dad (probably for the best).

    I also had huge promo posters for this, one of Neil and one of Chris, gawd knows where they are now (with my tattered ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’ poster from the video shop no doubt). Shame, they’d look great framed and on the wall now!

  16. 46
    thefatgit on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Tom, I remember that Floyd vs EMI thing. The media picked it up as some kind of “death of the concept album” argument. And there are certain albums that narrate in a linear fashion, the most obvious example is “War Of The Worlds”. That was a household favourite when I was younger. “Forever Autumn” was released as a single and did quite well in the charts IIRC, but that track made more sense in it’s album setting, with Richard Burton narrating over the instrumental break.

    Wichita’s point about growing up in the vinyl era also reminds me of when I bought Genesis’ “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, which also has a linear narrative. I was devastated that my copy had a tiny scratch that forced the needle to jump halfway through “Back In NYC”. I took the album back to the shop and asked for another copy. When I got back home, I eagerly played it through again only to find that the needle jumped at that EXACT SAME SPOT! Bastards!

  17. 47
    punctum on 3 Jun 2010 #

    #42: The importance of “Be My Wife” in the context of Low is precisely that it does break the flow, sound out of place and jarring because all of a sudden, in the midst of an album where the protagonist is essentially hiding from himself and the world (in that order) and eventually absents himself from the world (and the album, and recognisable language) altogether – and here is the source of his pain; it abruptly explodes with trembling vulnerability. Here, if only for a second (or, if you must, “only one day”), Bowie drops the masks and the mud and stares us straight in the face; this is what has made me what I am (/not). I find it intensely moving.

  18. 48
    Mike Atkinson on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Certainly the “forgotten” PSB Number One, and one which they have only lately started including in their live set; I’ve seen them many times, and have only witnessed them performing it once, on what I think was their last UK tour. Its exclusion always frustrated me, as I’ve always been more than fond of “Heart”. Musically, I like its clean lines, its economy, its smooth, seamless flow, but also its sense of giddy impatience: that panting vocal sample, that overall sense of blood rushing to the head, in the first flush of a new infatuation. And conceptually, I was ready for a relatively straightforward love song, after such a run of Big Events. The syndrum-laden 12″ filled my floor, it was spring, all was well with the world.

  19. 49
    pink champale on 3 Jun 2010 #

    i’d never thought of ‘be my wife’ as a particular outlier either way, but i will confess, to my deep shame, that i have never once played the second side of ‘low’. the downside of vinyl. (likewise it was years before i ever really played ‘sad eyed lady of the lowlands). not just ‘sloop john b’, i’m surely the only person in the world who actively looks forward to the apparently universally hated ‘student demonstration time’. i have just never been able to hear it as anything other than energetic, passionate and engaged. okay, slightly clumsy and outsiderish, but that’s always been part of the charm of the beach boys, even in their surfing days.

    anyway, listening to a whole album with rapt attention (following lou reed’s stern instructions on ‘new york’) is one of those things that feels like it’s good for you and really does have its particular rewards. i’m just not sure that in a world where you can get anything ever made instantly and for free, the opportunity cost of ploughing through album tracks repeatedly until you like them is always worth it any longer. for anyone with truly hardline view on the matter, i have these words: Wu…..Tang……Forever. eat up that poppa wu folks!

    i’m edging towards liking ‘heart’ more and more. i love the way neil’s singing suggests a real weight and backstory behind the simple words and i love the urgency of the string snatches.

  20. 50
    lockedintheattic on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I grew up with cassettes, and so used to listen to albums in their entirety, which I loved at the time – for quite often a song that I didn’t get on first listen would often become a favourite later on as I became more accustomed to its subtleties. These days I just don’t often have the time to listen to one album again and again to give it a chance, which I’m kind of sad about, as I’m sure it means I am missing out on some gems, but on the other hand it gives me time to explore more tracks by more artists so ultimately I think I’m better off.

    #42 Lovesexy is bloody annoying like that (and I see that it’s only for sale as a download as a single, 45 minute track for 4.99). But for some reason more recent pressings of the CD do have individual tracks which allows you to get at the good bits more easily.

  21. 51
    Conrad on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Artists do spend a hell lot of time on the sequencing and flow of tracks on an album. It’s a critical part of getting the record to work – although they can get it wrong.

    I always felt putting ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ first up on BB was poor sequencing, as the album effectively peaked in intensity at track 1. Should have been track 5 side 1.

    Sometimes a ‘lesser’ track works well in breaking up a record, or in developing a mood/atmosphere. Sometimes a track is just poorly realised wherever it sits and then it does become tempting to edit it out.

    Either way I like “Be My Wife” on Low, and I think it works well where it is.

  22. 52
    wichita lineman on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I just thought I’d check the world’s best selling 40-odd minute track, Tubular Bells on itunes… it has at some point in the digital era become 17 separate tracks. My favourite snippet, which I first became aware of as a melancholy Milk Marketing Board advert, is apparently called A Minor Tune.

  23. 53
    punctum on 3 Jun 2010 #

    #49:

    This is why being able to “get anything ever made instantly and for free” is fundamentally wrong. It makes listeners blasé, makes them feel that they don’t need to do any work or make any effort towards listening to a piece of music because, well if it doesn’t click instantly, there are always a million other pieces available, and it all becomes aural wallpaper at the end. When you have to go out and spend hard cash on something you want a return on your investment; you have to make time and effort available to appreciate something, which means multiple listens (unless the album’s a total dog, which is usually pretty apparent, in which case you go back to the shop and do an exchange).

    It’s too late to turn the clock back and uninvent iTunes etc. but it has meant increased disposability and indiscrimination.

    Wu-Tang Forever is a fantastic album and I look forward to writing about it on Then Play Long in 483 weeks’ time.

  24. 54
    DietMondrian on 3 Jun 2010 #

    On the subject of skipping tracks, how about “Death at One’s Elbow” from Strangways, Here We Come by the ‘PSBs you can’t dance to’?

  25. 55
    LondonLee on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I hate coming late to the comment party and just dully repeating what everyone else has said but I love the direct simplicity of this, another sign of a band’s “imperial phase” (nice piece at Pitchfork, Tom) is how they can knock out something like this without seeming to break a sweat. Maybe more efficiently “good” rather than great but still a pleasure.

    I have ‘Lovesexy’ on vinyl so I can play whatever track I like!

  26. 56
    Tom on 3 Jun 2010 #

    #53 I swing around on this – fundamentally the opportunity cost of a second play for something you’re not sure about is a first play for something new, and vice versa. There are times when what I want is the new thing, times when I want to worry at stuff and work my way into it, times when I want something I know is great, times when I want to open the vaults and let shuffle decide… people find the balance that suits them. I do think that we’re seeing a move away from the “OMG EVERYTHING AT ONCE” thing and people are engineering situations that make them listen to things more carefully again but within the new web/easy availability context. Listening clubs, listening projects like this one and Then Play Long, Matos’ Slow Listening Thing – after that initial “celestial jukebox” phase there’s a bit of pull back going on. The downside of this is even MORE canon-building and reinforcement stuff happening I guess.

  27. 57
    pink champale on 3 Jun 2010 #

    #53 yeah, there is a lot of truth in that, but for someone like me who’salways been a fairly lazy listener (and also quite skint!) this free for all has opened up whole new worlds that don’t feel *that* much less sweet for being unearned. also the flipside of i-tunes is that the shuffle setting has got me to love lots of 17th tracks and alternate takes from the distant recesses of my cd collect that i’d never bothered to listen to before.

    anyway, ‘wu-tang forever’ is certainly fantastic (one of the very few albums i’ve ever rushed out and bought the day it came out) and contains some of the most astonishing music ever made, but there sure is a lot of it and not all of it quite passes muster. so sitting down and listening to all eight sides in one go is a task i don’t attempt much more than once every three or four years. or, to put it another way, i’m glad i don’t feel i owe it to the wu to try and see the genius in ‘dogshit’ every time i marvel at ‘a better tomorrow’. can’t wait for ‘then play long’ though – no doubt you’ll have me agreeing it’s all about ‘black shampoo’ after all.

  28. 58
    vinylscot on 3 Jun 2010 #

    The “listening to a whole album at once” dilemma has implications on what has been previously referred to here as the “canon.” Many of the albums which were listed in the popular “canon” poll a few months ago NEED repeated listens in their entirety. It is often worth the effort, and I think I agree with Marcello that it is preferable(and ultimately more satisfying) to invest something of oneself, whether financially or emotionally, in the prospect of hearing something keenly anticipated and new.

    Ready availability can lead to greater consumption, but equally can result in the product not receiving the treatment it deserves. Does the typical music consumer now give an album a “second chance”, or does the immediate availability of an almost infinite number of alternatives outweigh the need/desire to do so?

    Without second listens, a huge percentage of my own collection, from Beefheart, Zappa, Stone The Crows in my youth(ish) through to more recent albums like Lil Beethoven, 69 Love Songs, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, would long have departed towards charity shops or eBay.

    In my own experience, something has to be pretty bad not to get a second chance, but I suspect that’s mainly to do with the purchase of an album being an “event”, for economical reasons more than anything, back in the mists of time.

  29. 59
    Tom on 3 Jun 2010 #

    There’s a site – I totally forget the name of it – but it reviews albums twice, once after one play and once after ten, which seems a good idea. And then even better the idea is the ten plays are in varied circumstances – on yr own with headphones, doing the washing-up, with friends, walking about, drunk etc etc. I like how the conceit combines the ‘art’ and ‘utility’ elements of album listening!

    I think part of what bugs me about the “listening through repeatedly” model is that it puts a big stress on an individual listener, the kind of one-on-one communion between art and recipient which is really only one way you can encounter a record (and tends to lead to certain TYPES of record being canonised and others not so much). When I’ve loved an album in the last decade that love has partly been forged socially – listening to it and arguing about it at the same time, being part of message boards picking over it. That kind of experience actually replaced the repeated solo listens thing for a while – a kind of distributed listening in which the power and persuasiveness of other ears often helped me find value I might not ever have myself.

  30. 60
    punctum on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I should point out that the albums written about on Then Play Long are not listened (or re-listened) to with just one pair of ears when it comes to my writing about them. Nor is the blog going to be written by one pair of hands in the long run but that’s a few years off yet.

    The great satisfaction of doing something like TPL is that my wife, who more often than not has not heard these albums before, or knows most of the tracks on any given album but hasn’t heard them in sequence, comes up with new, original and startling ideas and perspectives while listening and these all feed into the final writing.

  31. 61
    lonepilgrim on 3 Jun 2010 #

    this seems a good a point as any to mention a thought that occurred to me a little while after the previous discussion on the ‘canon’ – that the early influential ‘albums’ of the British invasion by the Beatles and Stones were released in different formats in the UK and USA so the ‘correct’ track listing is not always settled.

    Having started buying albums in the 70s I still feel that listening to them in sequence is the ‘right’ way but most music I listen to these days is on iTunes shuffle which is more like a mixtape experience – and, like PC @ 47, I find this does allow me to reappraise tracks.

  32. 62
    MikeMCSG on 3 Jun 2010 #

    # 47 I think you’re right about the economic angle. My own LP collection only really started after my personal golden age (78-81) had finished so I’ve always felt I missed out on running to the shops to buy Jam/Squeeze/Buggles LPs when they first came out.
    Even before the download thing I was finding that the more often I bought albums the less likely I was inclined to spend time with the ones that didn’t grab me at first. I’ve some from the nineties I’ve only played once. My own blog http://www.clarkechroniclersalbums.blogspot.com is partly an attempt to rectify this.

  33. 63
    thefatgit on 3 Jun 2010 #

    Here’s another thing, if you listen to an album in a “sterile” environment ie. in a room on your own with no interruptions, then certain aspects of the album will take on greater significance, as your brain will make connections with how you feel or what memories are stirred. This becomes a matter of individuality and personal experience.

    The problem is that there are fewer “sterile” environments in order to give of yourself to an album or artist. Listening on the move or in the company of others means that other stimuli come into play. No two shared experiences are identical. As are no two personal experiences are identical. The artist then, who may almost always create the album in a “sterile” environment (the studio) can no more influence the listening experience than preventing the sun from rising.

    In most cases, especially when listening to a canonical album where so much has been written and re-written by the music press, then the influence of the written word can and often does have an effect on the listening experience, sometimes retrospectively.

    The final point is that we live in an environment where so much of our lives is subject to external input, that we forget what it means to take time out and seek those sterile environments where we can just listen, in perhaps the same way we would take time out to read a book, so that those personal connections can be made. So many of us choose to snatch excerpts and moments out of context and accept them for what they are.

    So do you engineer the opportunity to listen to “Pet Sounds” in it’s entirety? Or do you snatch moments to listen to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “You Still Believe In Me” only to be distracted halfway through “That’s Not Me”?

  34. 64
    Tom on 3 Jun 2010 #

    I think the sterile environment tends to be just that!

  35. 65
    johnnyo on 3 Jun 2010 #

    i grew up with cds and, though i can certainly identify with the nostalgia of saving up to buy a cd and working hard to get some return on my investment, the 15-year old me was inconsolable once he realized he just did not *like* what he was hearing. in time, that young man became a chronically broke college student living mere blocks away from a record store that gave cash for used cds. you can imagine how my collection suffered. for four years anything but a stone cold favorite was getting sold for a slice of pizza and a six-pack. until the advent of file-sharing and iTunes, this was the story of my life. i can’t tell you how many times i bought and sold the exact same album until it finally clicked and joined the realms of the permanant collection.

    i must’ve bought and sold “Exile on Main Street” four or five times until i finally *got it* (tip: excessive drinking in your mid-twenties).

  36. 66
    LondonLee on 4 Jun 2010 #

    I rarely have the time to actually sit down and listen to a new album the way I did in the olden days, most of my listening now is done at work when I’m doing other stuff but I’ve still managed to become almost as familiar with say, the last Bat For Lashes album, as I am with any Jam record. It just takes a lot longer. Also, albums that take a bit of work to appreciate tend to have more longevity.

    I never play the second side of Low either but the first side is strong enough to make it one of the best albums ever made even if I only actually like 50% of it.

  37. 67
    swanstep on 4 Jun 2010 #

    Side 2 of Low strikes me as pretty much a complete knockout. If anyone needs to be talked into this then it might be worth while checking out Philip Glass’s terrific orchestration of it from back in the ’90s. Bowie and Glass discuss that (and you hear a few excerpts) here. Most orchestral arrangements of pop/rock are indifferent at best, utter embarrassments at worst. The Low Symphony, however, triumphantly achieves lift-off: it’s quite playable alongside your Gorecki’s and Britten’s in my view. But, hey, I thought Jonny Greenwood’s stuff for There Will Be Blood was *ace*, and I’ve enjoyed all of Clint Mansell’s s/tracks – so I may just be easy on this particular front.

  38. 68
    flahr on 4 Jun 2010 #

    “Heart” then: I didn’t feel the same sense of it being too unstraightforward that the main review and a few of the comments have picked up on, and I feel that the dryness of his voice actually gives it a sort of sincere tenderness. Still a 7.

    Albums vs. singles: I’m an albums listener rather than a singles listener (briefly: an interest in AOR and hence a rockist distaste for contemporary music while growing up which meant a) I didn’t listen to the radio and b) I consumed old music which in the CD-pre-internet age you did through albums) and I generally prefer to listen to albums most of the way through rather than skipping tracks. If I was more time-pressured, however, I suspect I would just go for the hits, and in fact I suspect that because I listen on Spotify, my mp3 player for instance (and when I do that it’s mostly not albums but the whole library on shuffle) the majority of my listening is probably one song at a time – then when I decide to listen to ‘an album’ it’s an event and something I sit all the way through.

  39. 69
    rosie on 4 Jun 2010 #

    In the days after CDs but before instant downloads a friend of mind had her CD player programmed to play an expurgated version of Tapestry (without Smackwater Jack

    Of course, a vinyl album had the potential to be a miniature 2-act opera (dare I mention Bat Out Of Hell?). An original CD could be a perfect one-act opera. Puccini, bless him, invented the perfect single-CD opera with Gianni Schicchi 70 years before the CD. But then in the 21st century with single track downloading and Classic FM that would be reduced to the 2-minute showstopper mio babbino caro and the glories of the rest of the piece lost for ever!

    There are many albums that are a rag bag of randomly-ordered tracks but the best opnes, just like the best home-made tape compilations, had an overarching narrative that made the whole much more that the sum of its parts.

  40. 70
    punctum on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #63: I find it impossible to listen to bits of Pet Sounds; it really has to be experienced in its entirety, as a discrete work.

    But possibly that’s why DVDs have taken over; people tend to need to do something else while they’re listening to something, i.e. have something to look at, although given the vital visual factor of pop this was always going to happen. Of course it means that you’re hearing something rather than listening to it but maybe that’s become a rarefied art; a pity if it has.

    #68: Don’t know where “albums vs. singles” came in; this is about ways of listening.

  41. 71
    thefatgit on 4 Jun 2010 #

    It’s the optimist in me that says: this new album I bought demands my full attention. So you can imagine I’ve been disappointed quite a few times! However, there is this feeling of “getting your money’s worth” on any investment, so call me old school if I’m going to spend some time on that investment. I still like to think that buying and playing a new album can be an “event”. The last album that felt like it lived up to “event” status was Burial’s “Untrue”.

  42. 72
    rosie on 4 Jun 2010 #

    @70 I think the ‘vital visual factor of pop’ is a generational thing. My own pop experience was in sharp decline by the time the pop video became an essential part of the experience. The kind of pop I grew up with came out of the radio (originally in sixty-second excerpts on a very dodgy signal) and on record, and I’ve never really got used to the idea of song and video being an inseparable whole. Actually I find hearing something I don’t know for the first time through the Popular video is an irritating distraction and I’d rather hunt down an audio file. In much the same way that if an interesting news link on a website turns out to be a video rather than a page of text I can scan quickly I often can’t be bothered. It may also explain why I manage to live without a televisual device – I don’t much like having all my attention demanded when only my ears, or only my eyes, are needed.

  43. 73
    punctum on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #71: The Burial album wasn’t an “event” since most people still aren’t aware of him.

    #72: You don’t think that what Elvis or the Beatles or Sinatra looked like and did was a key factor in their popularity? Would “Heartbreak Hotel” have had such an impact if Presley had resembled, say, Arthur Lucan?

  44. 74
    punctum on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #71 PS: although on a “personal event” level it would count but then wouldn’t every album released be an “event” for someone?

  45. 75
    Mike Atkinson on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #72/#73 – In terms of impact on the imagination, I do think there’s a difference between the general look/style of a performer, and the specific look/style of a video. That’s part of the reason why I prefer Spotify over YouTube; when I listen to a song, I generally don’t want to get locked into the memory of a video.

  46. 76
    punctum on 4 Jun 2010 #

    Technology tends to fill long-suppressed desires. I daresay kids in the fifties would have killed to have a machine where you could listen to Elvis and watch him at the same time whenever you wanted.

  47. 77
    thefatgit on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #74 Absolutely, a personal event. And I take your point that for somebody somewhere, anything will take on event status. Like childbirth and marriage and death, events that are commonplace can be extraordinary. It’s a matter of perspective.

  48. 78
    Steve Mannion on 4 Jun 2010 #

    How many of you ever made up music videos in your head for songs you loved which didn’t have them? I still do this.

  49. 79
    rosie on 4 Jun 2010 #

    #76 – I think kids in 1957 were thrilled to bits to have a machine that made Presley sing to order along with their cheeseburger and coke float. Even if they couldn’t see him.

    #78 I can’t remember there ever being a song I wanted to put a video to, although I can think of many instrumental pieces I have done exactly that with. I certainly constructed a complete animation in my head to Frank Zappa’s Peaches en Regalia and have often wished I’d had an opportunity to realise it.

  50. 80
    flahr on 4 Jun 2010 #

    @70: you’re right, of course, and that was a disingenuous way of summing up the discussion. What I meant was listening to something as an album vs listening to it as single tracks (though that is different from the issue of skipping tracks or not), and that’s manifestly not what I said.

  51. 81
    lonepilgrim on 4 Jun 2010 #

    re78 stirs up horrible memories of DLTs new vids for old songs programme

  52. 82
    Tom on 5 Jun 2010 #

    THE GOLDEN OLDIE PICTURE SHOW. This had more influence (mostly very BAD influence) on my impression of old music than anything else ever. I think I mentioned it in an old Popular entry (Mungo Jerry?). Now of course I’d love to see an edition – maybe Youtube will provide…

  53. 83
    Mutley on 10 Jun 2010 #

    #76 “Technology tends to fill long-suppressed desires. I daresay kids in the fifties would have killed to have a machine where you could listen to Elvis and watch him at the same time whenever you wanted”

    Kids in the late 50s and early 60s did have such a machine, called the Scopitone – a type of jukebox featuring a 16 mm film component. There is a Wikipedia page on it which states that it came originally from France featuring amonst others the perpetual Johnny Hallyday singing “Noir c’est noir” (i.e. a cover of Los Bravos “Black is Black”). The only thing I can recall seeing on such a machine was Screaming Lord Sutch (“Jack the Ripper”), although according to Wikipedia, there was also Telstar, Neil Sedaka (“Calendar Girl”)and Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots are made for Walking”) among others. These video jukeboxes were not very common and were ultimately unsuccessful. After all, who wants to watch videos in coffee bars or pubs (and you had to pay), even with today’s high technology?

    #73. The related issue of whether “Heartbreak Hotel” would have had such an impact if Elvis had resembled Arthur Lucan. It could be said that rock’n’roll, and therefore most subsequent chart music, was kick-started by the Arthur Lucan of pop – i.e. Bill Haley of “Rock around the Clock” fame, who like Arthur’s alter ego, Old Mother Riley, was an older person, not at all good-looking or sexy, but very popular and appearing in cheap but successful films. Actually, the first time I heard “Rock around the Clock” (and therefore any rock’n’roll whatsoever) was on Hancock’s Half Hour in November 1955, when they did a spoof of the film “Blackboard Jungle” featuring “Rock around the Clock” in the background. As an innocent 12 year old I had never heard of Blackboard Jungle, Bill Haley, rock’n’roll, rhythm and blues, let alone Elvis. I was convinced that the song was produced by the Hancock team and was sung by Bill Kerr, Hancock’s gormless sidekick, who had a voice somewhat similar to Bill Haley’s. I was bowled over by the music, which instantly replaced “Robin Hood” (riding through the glen) and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” (king of the wild frontier) as my music of choice.

  54. 84
    Tom on 10 Jun 2010 #

    Spotting a bonkers video out of the corner of yr eye on a pub TV = one of life’s fine minor pleasures.

    Paying money to put a video on in a pub = madness.

  55. 85
    Matthew H on 28 Jul 2010 #

    When Actually came out, I remember PSBs doing a track-by-track – probably in Smash Hits, possibly Record Mirror; I was still umming and ahhing between the two – and Neil Tennant coming out with one of my favourite lines when talking about Heart. I say favourite, but I can’t remember exactly – something like, “Heart has, as musicologists say, a great middle bit…” I like to latch “as musicologists say” onto every hopeless statement I make. Anyway, when I finally heard the song for myself, I thought the “middle bit” was weak. So there you go.

  56. 86
    Billy Smart on 28 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: Jonh Wilde, March 26 1988;

    “As a man who has just this minute given up believing that all good things turn wretched, I am thunderstruck. The gap between my lips is wide. After their lugubrious reading of ‘Always On My Mind’, things diminish further with this sour self-parody. Destitute of all light. What happened to the friskiness? This abject surrender, I trust, is temporary. Or there will be trouble at t’mill. You’ve had it too easy my friends. What happened to my admiration? It lies so limp. If Pet Shop Boys are statring to slide, if they continue to frazzle, God help us all. This is lazy thinking. It must stop. Think of irony. Sleep in a hat. Something. wasn’t it Picasso who used to wander off in the middle of sexual intercourse to count his money? Now that’s what we need.”

    Wilde awarded single of the week to 10,000 Maniacs’ ‘What’s The Matter Here?’. Also reviewed that week;

    The Darling Buds – Shame On You
    Cher – We All Sleep Alone
    Danny Wilson – Mary’s Prayer
    T’Pau – Sex Talk (Live)
    The Lover Sleeps – No More ‘I Love You’s

  57. 87
    Martin F. on 10 Jan 2011 #

    Oh, thank god for #10. This song is ruined by the Pigeon Street-esque “coo” sounds. Well, not ruined, but you feel like Long-Distance Clara would approve, and that’s not what the charts are there for.

  58. 88
    wichita lineman on 10 Jan 2011 #

    Pigeon Street-ness means I prefer the album version, which is coo-free.

  59. 89
    hectorthebat on 18 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Panorama (Norway) – The 30 Best Singles of the Year 1970-98 (1999) 24
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 36

  60. 90
    Gareth Parker on 1 Jun 2021 #

    Still a great single from PSB in my view. 8/10.

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