singles by choice
(albums when it's necessary)

Every track on every "proper" Pet Shop Boys album rated in as little space as I can manage.

Note that, though I've never liked it, I've used the style of capitalisation you see on the records. I think they do it like that in France, don't they?

Not that it matters, but it's all on vinyl.

Please (1986)
  • Two divided by zeroGlamourous and slightly foreboding. Announcements. Beep beep. Let’s run away - Hey!
    5
  • West end girlsThe Guardian sez it’s the best #1 single ever, and Always on My Mind excepted, they’re probably right.
    5
  • Opportunities (let's make lots of money)The sentiment may have been misunderstood, but the tune’s an undeniable banger.
    4
  • Love comes quicklyI know it’s their favourite, but it’s not one of mine. The sound of the atom splitting is better.
    3
  • SuburbiaFeels inadequate compared to the every-sound-in-the-Fairlight Disco version.
    4
  • Opportunities (reprise)Please wouldn’t be Please without it. “Who wa - who wants some?”
    3
  • Tonight is foreverFiller, but very agreeable filler.
    3
  • ViolenceMinimal. Makes its point.
    4
  • I want a loverIf ever anyone didn’t need to point out that they didn’t want a fight, it’s Neil Tennant.
    3
  • Later tonightThe choice of words might be a bit pretentious, but it’s a lovely tune, and I like to play it on the piano.
    3
  • Why don't we live together?Not bad, but not the finalé this record deserves.
    3
  •  
  • ArtworkVery much of its time, but timeless.
    4
  • SummaryThat average doesn’t really sound enough, does it? Few too many threes towards the end.
    3.6
Actually (1987)
  • One more chanceSounds as crazy as it did when I brought the cassette home in 1987. Chesterfield Hudson’s. £5.95. I had to save up. And the bus was nearly an hour each way.
    4
  • What have I done to deserve this?Magnificence. Today my favourite bit is pushing “At night the people come and go”, forward two beats, but it could be any of a dozen other things tomorrow.
    5
  • ShoppingHey kids, spelling is fun! The poor man’s Opportunities.
    2
  • RentAmbiguous melancholy.
    5
  • Hit musicUnderrated.
    4
  • It couldn't happen hereA sad, strange, beautiful, magnificent lament to the loss of simpler times.
    5
  • It's a sinThe tightrope between “brilliant” and “ridiculous”, walked perfectly.
    5
  • I want to wake upMakes me Want to Get Up and skip the needle to…
    2
  • HeartUptight me didn’t like this, but couldn’t-care-less me embraces its pop perfection.
    5
  • King's CrossGives me the willies.
    5
  •  
  • ArtworkYawn.
    5
  • SummaryOne of my very favourite records.
    4.2
Introspective (1989)
  • Left to my own devices“Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat”. And that’s not even the best bit.
    5
  • I want a dogPlodding and dull, pining for the ersatz love of a yapping shit-machine. Dogs are taking over the world.
    1
  • Domino dancingLike an old boxer in the first round, it punches hard, but shows its age in the last couple of minutes.
    4
  • I'm not scaredThe acme of pop sophistication, even without Patsy Kensit’s French accent.
    5
  • Always on my mind / In my houseJazz justifies its awfulness because awful bits make the good bits sound godlike. I don’t like the first ⅔, of this, but because of it, when the “proper” version kicks in with the train whistle, I want to punch through a wall.
    4
  • It's alrightBoring club music. The year 3000 does come to pass. Nothing changes, but they live underwater.
    2
  •  
  • ArtworkI think the CD has the stripes in a different order, and I love things like that. I always wanted the three-record version, but it’s too expensive.
    3
  • SummaryWhich means I think this is very very nearly as good as Please, which I don’t. Never trust numbers. Or anyone trying to quantify art.
    3.5
Behaviour (1990)
  • Being boringActually as good as everyone says it is.
    5
  • This must be the place I waited years to leaveThe residue left once you’ve got It’s a Sin out of your system. “To our voices nobody’s listening” is unforgivable.
    3
  • To face the truthBehaviour sounds so good, and this one sounds the best. Listen to that pad. Properly sad, too.
    5
  • How can you expect to be taken seriously?The first of perhaps too many songs on the same theme. Fun, though. Restrained, English fun.
    3
  • Only the windThe quietest song ever about arguing. I wish they’d put an Aphex Twin style gear list on the sleeve.
    3
  • My October symphonyHow to address unsavoury history, eh? The backing vocal is jarring and inappropriate, but the strings are terrific.
    3
  • So hardMaybe doesn’t fit the flow of the LP, but “faithful / fatal” and appropriation of I Feel Love push it into genius.
    5
  • NervouslyTranscends the sexuality about which it’s written. Universal, beautiful, wonderful. One of my favourite songs.
    5
  • The end of the worldGreat song, but the production stands out. Late night, at home, dark. I love it.
    4
  • JealousyAnd I thought It’s a Sin was over the top. That harp!
    5
  •  
  • ArtworkA simple elegance which suits the music beautifully, The red inner is gorgeous.
    3
  • SummaryIt’s a great record, but when I play it, I always think I don’t like it quite as much as I thought I did.
    4.1
Very (1993)
  • Can you forgive her?More stabbage than Scream, but what a belter. Shout out to everyone who dances to disco and don’t like rock.
    5
  • I wouldn't normally do this kind of thingMy high-culture interests (Rite of Spring in this case) align closely with theirs, but in low-culture we couldn’t be more different. How can people capable of making this music think New Order are good?
    5
  • LiberationNice enough, but an odd choice for a single.
    2
  • A different point of viewGood chorus, but man, that verse is forgettable.
    2
  • Dreaming of the QueenThere’s nothing more boring than hearing about other people’s dreams, especially ones set to dull, plodding music. And it should be “you and me and Lady Di”, right, grammar pedants?
    1
  • Yesterday, when I was madI don’t much like the sound of Very: it’s too busy and cluttered. “So loud”. Brilliant lyric, but lose a point for middle bits with different time signature.
    3
  • The theatreWalks the worthy/embarassing tightrope, and wobbles a couple of times. Is that laugh the one from the end of Theme from S-EXPRESS?
    2
  • One and one make fiveVery is too long, and this is a prime reason why. Should have been kept back for the Further Listening.
    1
  • To speak is a sinThat descending bass line is such a cliché, but with that chord held over the top.. ooooooh.
    5
  • Young offenderGreat lyric married to busy, middling arrangement. Another for Further Listening.
    2
  • One in a millionI enjoyed I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing earlier, and I’m enjoying it again now.
    4
  • Go WestMakes me unnecessarily emotional. “We will feel just fine” breaks my heart, because you know they won’t.
    5
  •  
  • ArtworkThe CD sleeve is a classic, but the vinyl sleeve, like the music, is too harsh and bold.
    3
  • SummarySome stone-cold killer, and a load of filler.
    3.1
Bilingual (1996)
  • DiscotecaParanoid neurosis never sounded so good.
    5
  • SingleDiscoteca’s clean-shaven mirror-universe counterpart.
    5
  • MetamorphosisSo bad-it’s-good rapping, tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“I began to think I might be their kind of guy”), and the always-special treat of Chris’s vocal stylings.
    4
  • ElectricityRevisits Yesterday When I Was Mad, but in a hypnotic plod which brings to mind the big, slow-turning open-reel tapes referenced in the lyrics.
    4
  • Se a vida éJoyful, philosophical, and beautiful, as a love song should be. Not some miserable Sunday Love Songs dirge.
    5
  • It always comes as a surpriseSee above. This is a fantastic album.
    4
  • A red letter dayA sweet and hopeful unrequited love song.
    4
  • Up against itFinally, a drop in quality. Excellent at best.
    4
  • The survivorsThese “detached”, “ironic” songs have so much heart and humanity.
    5
  • BeforeA bit housey-housey for me. Still seems an odd choice for a single.
    3
  • To step asideThe peculiarity of the backing vocal rather overshadows a well constructed song.
    3
  • Saturday night foreverI like the odd “inside out” melody, but it’s a slightly underwhelming end.
    3
  •  
  • ArtworkThe sleeve mirrors the music’s sun-soaked elegance, but the photos on inner are a bit middle-aged gap-year.
    4
  • SummaryThough it perhaps lacks “absolute classics”, an album of remarkable consistency and depth.
    4.1
Nightlife (1999)
  • For your own goodEschews melody and texture for a “loud”, weak-ass trance sound I don’t get on with at all.
    1
  • Closer to heavenSongs referencing “heaven” or “a dream” are always crap. The musical equivalent of organized fun.
    1
  • I don't know what you want but I can't give it any moreI dislike the sound of Nightlife as much as I love the sound of Behaviour. And though Behaviour was made on ancient gear, it’s Nightlife that sounds old.
    1
  • Happiness is an optionFinally we step out of the depressing disco for a breath of (odd) fresh air. Some of the words are bit iffy though.
    3
  • You only tell me you love me when you're drunkSuch a pretty melody for a deliberately ugly lyric, which is perhaps why it works so well.
    4
  • VampiresSlinky and a little bit weird.
    3
  • RadiophonicBack to the feel of the first tracks. It doesn’t inspire me enough to describe it.
    2
  • The only oneDull, and I really dislike the way it’s sung. The last minute or so is an ordeal.
    1
  • Boy strangeAt least it’s trying to do something different. Can’t decide if it’s actually good or just good compared to the rest of the album. Sounds like an interesting b-side.
    3
  • In denialKylie is awful, but there are a couple of lovely chord changes in here. One point for each.
    2
  • New York City boyI know you’re supposed to hate it, but it’s daft fun, and not trying and failing to be something “cool”, which most of Nightlife is.
    3
  • FootstepsNightlife should have been a single. Double ‘a’. This and You only tell me…
    4
  •  
  • ArtworkThe excitement of going out. I like the wigs, and there’s some nice typography in there too, especially the way the lyrics are laid out on the inner.
    4
  • SummaryLyrically clumsy. Musically uninspired. Collaborators add no value. Feels like an album made because they needed to make an album rather than because they had an album they needed to make.
    2.3
Release (2002)
  • Home and dryA song with a kind heart. Nightlife had no heart.
    3
  • I get alongI’ve always liked Don’t Look Back in Anger.
    3
  • Birthday boyI have no idea what this is all about. None at all. Nope. Nice tune though.
    3
  • LondonI hate the autotune Cher effect so, so much. Shame, it spoils a good song.
    3
  • E-mailDouble nostalgia hit with a bit of dial-up noise and the hyphen. A nicely insecure English love letter. What happened to letters? And not top-posting?
    4
  • The samurai in autumnArpeggiated dancefloor banger meditates on middle age.
    3
  • Love is a catastropheWhy do people hate this? It’s a bit late to start ripping on the Pet Shop Boys for over the top melodrama.
    5
  • HereAnother beautiful sentiment wrapped in a lovely arrangement.
    4
  • The night I fell in loveSweet and funny. But the “school” reveal isn’t as good as the one in I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife.
    3
  • You chooseYou do.
    4
  •  
  • ArtworkNo Mark Farrow, no problem. I only have the reissue, but it’s still very nice.
    4
  • SummaryMaybe an over-correction from the mistakes of Nightlife. But has feeling, care, and acts its age.
    3.5
Fundamental (2006)
  • PsychologicalTrevor Horn knows how to let the Pet Shop Boys be the Pet Shop Boys, whether it’s stripping them down to the barest essentials or chucking them a 96 piece orchestra. Straight into the groove.
    3
  • The Sodom and Gomorrah show“I went on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Never again”.
    5
  • I made my excuses and leftVery English. Embarassed about how you feel, even when wronged. Keeping a stiff upper lip. I like the Steve Reich-ey talking bit.
    4
  • MinimalNot as minimal as Psychological, Not as psychological either. You can’t spell MINIMAL without MI.
    4
  • NumbI still haven’t forgiven Diane Warren for the theme from Enterprise, and I’m not mad on this either. Lovely arrangement though.
    3
  • God willingAn introduction without a song. Would make more sense at the start of side 2 than the end of side 1.
    2
  • Luna ParkPeople are stupid; the world is terrible, but don’t worry because it will end soon. Plus fantastic chord progression.
    5
  • I'm with stupidThings are so bad now that W looks like a great statesman you’d have back in a heartbeat. Brilliant words, big fat bassline and our first orchestral stab since Very. Get in!
    5
  • Casanova in hellCasanova, it turns out, is pretty much Jay from The Inbetweeners. An inadequate, lying, perv. That’s men for you.
    5
  • Twentieth centuryFits the theme and tone of the album, but not a strong enough song in this company.
    3
  • Indefinite leave to remainBeautiful as a song about migration, even better as a love song to a person. It’s hard to believe the same person wrote the words to Fundamental and Nightlife.
    4
  • IntegralImmaculate, rational, perfect. But not sterile.
    5
  •  
  • ArtworkThe visual feel fits the sound of the album, and the flourescent light text fits some of the subject matter. Extra point for colouring the inside of the outer sleeve.
    4
  • SummaryBest sound since Behaviour, best tunes and stylistic range since Actually, and lyrically even stronger than Bilingual. I love this album.
    4.0
Yes (2009)
  • Love etc.If I could have any material thing in the world, I’d have a Gerhard Richter hanging on my wall. This, also, is a masterpiece.
    5
  • All over the worldOver the top, but more plodding than flamboyant.
    3
  • Beautiful peopleThough I hate to pigeonhole, I have an idea of what the Pet Shop Boys sound like, and it isn’t incidental music from an Austin Powers film. Weak lyric too.
    1
  • Did you see me coming?The sound of Yes doesn’t work for me. Too full. Too polished. As on Release, Johnny Marr adds nothing, strumming along in the background like a noodling Dad breaking out the old acoustic.
    3
  • VulnerableLike almost everything on Yes, the corners are fettled off. There’s nothing to catch, nothing to get hold of. It drifts by like a wet cardboard box in a stream.
    2
  • More than a dreamAnother rubbish Heaven/Dream song to back up my theory.
    1
  • Building a wallOdd enough to be interesting, but also odd enough not to be something you’d want to put on.
    3
  • King of RomeA pad and a drum machine, and it all falls into place. Stands out as being a Pet Shop Boys song.
    4
  • PandemoniumStill over produced, too glossy and too busy, but it’s good tune. Trevor Horn would have knocked this out of the park.
    4
  • The way it used to beThere’s a great song in here, but it can’t escape the house style and ends up being four more minutes of slick mediocrity.
    3
  • LegacyIt’s an experiment, but I don’t think it’s a successful one. Like the rest of the album, overthought and overworked.
    2
  •  
  • ArtworkBack to the future with Mark Farrow bringing the first couple of album sleeves into the 21st century.
    4
  • SummaryLike Nightlife the collaboration feels off. Does everything a 2009 pop album should do, and then some, but never feels genuine. Like it’s happening to someone else; or behind glass.
    2.8
Elysium (2012)
  • LeavingContinues where Legacy left off. We are our past, we are shaped by the people around us. But said much more elegantly than that.
    4
  • InvisibleI’ve never been the life or soul of anything, but I sure as heck feel less relevant every day. The world loves youth, and it’s probably right to. But, y’know, they flee from me that sometime did me seek etc.
    4
  • WinnerSometimes I think this is too cheesy, but other times, like now, its sentimentality falls just the this side of the line, and I enjoy it. The verses are lovely.
    3
  • Your early stuffTemporarily not Invisible, but perhaps wishing it was. He has a point about those old machines though. There’s something magical about a Fairlight through an Eventide or a Lexicon.
    2
  • A face like thatDefinitive PSB bassline, bit of sass. Fun. But it’s hollow; it’s lust from afar, that won’t be acted on because it shouldn’t be.
    4
  • Breathing spaceLike almost everything up to now, confessing to failings and weakness, but not self-pitying. Honest and beautiful.
    4
  • Ego musicWe’ve been here before, and maybe done it better. The last line always makes me smile though.
    2
  • Hold onThe chords are nicked from Handel, but it sounds more like a Rogers and Hart number.
    2
  • Give it a goThis album’s production frames the its sentiments perfectly. Lots of (breathing) space and clean arrangements. The backing singers are just gorgeous.
    3
  • Memory of the futureElysium doesn’t really sound like any of the other albums, but it does sound like a Pet Shop Boys album. It doesn’t have a Love Etc., but it succeeds everywhere Yes failed.
    4
  • Everything means somethingNeil Tennant’s voice sounds so apt throughout. Here he’s dissecting an argument, but not its content. The first principles.
    3
  • Requiem in denim and leopardskinBack to the theme of ageing, not that we’ve ever been far from it. A measured look back to what we were or how we might have imagined ourselves. Remember, the “algia” in “nostalgia” means “pain”.
    5
  •  
  • ArtworkBeautiful front cover, and the gatefold photo is a perfect reflection of the record. Sunshine and glass and Neil looking right into the lens, right into your eyes.
    4
  • SummaryThe Pet Shop Boys album no one likes. Has it been re-appraised yet? Because it certainly should be.
    3.3
Electric (2013)
  • AxisA statement of intent, but makes promises that aren’t kept.
    4
  • BolshyMiddling danceyness. Which is pretty much how I think of Electric.
    3
  • Love is a bourgeois constructFrom the title to the name-checks to the Michael Nyman lift, so Pet Shop Boys it’s almost self-parody. “You’re good at standing still / I’m quite good at singing”.
    3
  • FluorescentYeah, I mean, it’s okay, but not much of this is listening music is it? There’s nothing to say about it.
    2
  • Inside a dreamAnother boring dream/heaven song.
    1
  • The last to dieAs I sit waiting for a Springsteen cover to end, I am only thankful it isn’t The Boss himself, grunting over his pub band.
    1
  • Shouting in the eveningThis isn’t meant for people like me.
    1
  • ThursdayReally doesn’t need the rap bit, but the rest is okay.
    3
  • VocalPuts me in the middle of every nightclub I’ve ever been in; uncomfortable, bored, tired, and desperate to go home.
    2
  •  
  • ArtworkThe cover is a stylised inverse of Elysium’s, which pretty much sums up the music. Everything is oblique, even the barcode.
    4
  • SummaryWhereas Nightlife felt like it tried to be something and failed, Electric feels like it met its aims, but those aims don’t align with my tastes. I don’t feel equipped to judge it.
    2.2
Super (2016)
  • HappinessI always get a bit of a novelty cowboy vibe off this, but I like it. Marks thirty years of spelling in songs.
    3
  • The pop kidsWe all were The Pop Kids weren’t we? In our own way.
    4
  • Twenty-somethingA bit of a novelty Russian vibe this time, and a surgical lyric which uses the present to lament the past. Super shares Elysium’s “getting old” tip, but with more of a “young people were better in my day” angle.
    4
  • GroovyPresumably a reference to narcissim on the socials. I always think he’s going to say “I’m gonna go out / and live beyond my means”. Maybe he should.
    4
  • The dictator decidesClever, but a little bit clunky.
    3
  • Pazzo!Probably redundant in such close proximity to Groovy, but it’s just about fun enough to get away with it.
    3
  • Inner sanctumIf this was on Electric I’d probably hate it, but the softer, poppier sound of Super makes it more palatable. I hate the low-pass sweep though. God, that’s wearing.
    2
  • UndertowWheels out more EDM clichés, but just about survives as an exciting pop song.
    3
  • Sad robot worldWho are the sad robots? People in Amazon warehouses? You all get uppity about how much Jeff Bezos earns don’t you, but you still have Prime. Everything’s someone else’s fault with you, isn’t it?
    3
  • Say it to meRadio 1 now plays two records: the bland dance one, usually sung by a woman who can’t pronounce her vowels; and the angry urban rap one about your mate getting stabbed. This is the former.
    1
  • BurnI imagine most people that burn a disco down do it for the insurance. Before the morning comes.
    3
  • Into thin airThe lyric doesn’t fit the song, the song doesn’t fit the album, but it works, and I very much share the sentiment.
    3
  •  
  • ArtworkAs overly bright and simplistic as the production.
    3
  • SummaryI don’t enjoy Stuart Price’s production. Dance clichés and a tired sonic palette. Nothing feels special, or built to last.
    3.0
Hotspot (2020)
  • Will-o-the-wispGood hook, talky bit, crunching beats. Plenty to get hold of.
    4
  • You are the oneWith more interesting patches and a nice drum machine, wouldn’t be out of place on Behaviour.
    3
  • Happy peopleAn interesting and an engaging song pitted against yet another dull, generic backing track. Some synths are better than others.
    2
  • DreamlandRemember, songs about dreams and heaven? I’m right, aren’t I? Olly Alexander was in Lewis the other night. He was good.
    3
  • Hoping for a miracleThe miracle for which I hoped was that Hotspot would be full of contemplative, downtempo songs. This isn’t one of their best such tracks, but it’s better than another club banger.
    3
  • I don't wannaI don’t want Neil Tennant saying “wanna” here or in Numb. I want him saying “library” like in Casanova in Hell.
    3
  • Monkey businessFinely crafted silly pop fluff.
    4
  • Only the darkMore ’80s than anything they did in the ’80s.
    4
  • Burning the heatherGorgeous melancholy. I wanted an album of this.
    5
  • Wedding in berlinDaft, strange, and happy.
    4
  •  
  • ArtworkThe front cover is a photo they took of themselves in an art gallery, and I can’t get behind that. Looks pretty good though.
    4
  • SummaryA varied album that covers nearly all the Pet Shop Boys touchstones. No absolute killer, but no real filler. I’m a little surprised at how well the average score compares to some of the others, but I do like it.
    3.5
Actually
Behaviour
Bilingual
Fundamental
Please
Hotspot
Release
Introspective
Elysium
Very
Super
Yes
Nightlife
Electric