The Pet Shop Boys are pulling out all the stops with their Catalogue: 1985-2012 reissues series, revisiting all their studio albums on the Parlophone label with two- and three-disc special editions that feature the remastered original CDs packaged with lavish booklets and tons of bonus material.
Neil and Chris’s first six albums were reissued in 2001 with extra ‘Further listening’ discs and those are being remastered for re-release soon so first out of the Catalogue gate is 1999’s Nightlife. Notable for the Kylie duet In Denial and the camp classic New York City Boy, it’s an album that’s heavy on electronics and was written in tandem with the Closer To Heaven musical so it has a bit of a schizophrenic feel – veering from the thundering disco opener For Your Own Good to the beautiful melancholy of You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk – but the play on darkness and light is really interesting.
If ever a PSB album was ripe for reevaluation it’s Release, which came out in 2002 and underperformed everywhere except Germany. It was like nothing they’d ever done before, heavy on guitars (a lot of which were actually synthesised, although Johnny Marr from The Smiths strummed in the studio for real), very laid-back, not a dance floor banger within earshot. It’s also rather lovely, boasting such sublime tracks as London and The Night I Fell In Love.
Released three years later, Fundamental was true to its title – very Pet Shop Boys in the epic disco of The Sodom And Gomorrah Show, the poignancy of Casanova In Hell and the droll brilliance of I’m With Stupid, all wrapped up in a lavish Trevor Horn production.
All three albums have been masterfully remastered for extra bite and brightness. The accompanying booklets are brilliant, featuring essays that place each album in the context of the PSB pantheon, plus Neil and Chris riffing on every track. And the extra discs (two each for Nightlife and Release and one for Fundamental) are an embarrassment of riches, collating demos, discarded tracks, remixes, even ringtones.
Some gems: the Bee Gees-channelling Nightlife title track that somehow never made it on to the album, three duets with Elton John, the Marvin Gaye-sampling Between Two Islands and the hilarious Kander and Ebb pastiche of Tall Thin Man where Tennant mickey-takes musical theatre (“Oklahoma! is still too bloody long”).
Nightlife, Release and Fundamental are out now on Parlophone
Words by Simon Button