Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Pet Shop Boys – Did You See Me Coming?

“Love, etc.” is still in our top 10, then…


Edward Okulicz: Ah, now this is much more like it. No messing around, straight into a killer chorus and nearly no let up from there. Sure, the lyrics are a bit naff, but in stark contrast to the limp but tricky “Love, etc.” this is a gorgeous cocktail disco stomp to rival some of Very‘s giddiest pinnacles. If your idea of a good song is one that would sound good just on an acoustic, this might simultaneously be their best since “Miracles” and their most joyous since “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing”.

Chuck Eddy: I’m a big fan of their first three albums — wrote about them all the time back then, even did a hilarious interview with Neil once while Chris just sat there — but they haven’t made me care about a solitary thing they’ve done since Behavior 19 (!) years ago…well, maybe that one Eminem song was cute. And no doubt I’ve missed a few things. But this track definitely supports my suspicion that they’ve been spinning the same tepid singer-songwriterly wheels ever since. It’s pretty, I guess. So what?

Alex Macpherson: Sadly, I did indeed see this clumsy cliché of a song coming, as well as the accompanying tossed-off synth limpness masquerading as a “beat” — as should anyone else who’s endured the last 15 years of the Pet Shop Boys’ descent into Being Boring.

Ian Mathers: Truly horrific titular double entendre aside (Neil, Neil, you’re wittier than this!) and with the caveat that the protagonist is clearly so smitten that he’s reduced to a series of “I wuv you” clichés, this is still a nicely smooth example of why the PSB circa 2009 are more than just elder statesmen, even if it’s occasionally only slightly more.

Alfred Soto: The Boys have become such master songwriters that few “real” bands can cobble together a sun-kissed guitar groove as buoyant as this, by far the catchiest song on the lackluster Yes. It’s a nice companion to “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing” — unfortunately, that was from 1993. Although the evolution of Neil Tennant into a well-adjusted man who’s not above ordering one drink too many and flashing some pink speaks well to the continued aesthetic health of fiftysomething pop stars, this feels rote, even unnecessary. Impossible to dislike, difficult to remember an hour later.

Andrew Brennan: I liked the Xenomania kick 8 seconds in, but that’s about it — the song rapidly becomes a languid, plodding, in-the-style-of-Copacabana mess.

Michaelangelo Matos: This is the kind of record I’d have given an indulgent 7 only a year ago, but I’ve gotten a lot less indulgent in the past half-year. In a lot of ways I’m still glad they’re around, and I won’t be that surprised if I find myself enjoying Yes more than I’d expected to after a few years, but right now this seems pretty damn same-old. Especially when you keep in mind that they’ve been doing sincere for many more calendar years than they spent doing ironic.

Jonathan Bradley: The streamlined exuberance is agreeable, but, on a song so thin in inspiration, that seems to be a crutch more than a triumph of aesthetics. The lyrics are banal rather than deeply affecting, and by the time the vacant middle eight hits (“I’m not superstitious/or really religious/Just to thyself be true”) they have lost all ability to be involving. Besides, the bassline’s nagging similarity to Madonna’s “Sorry” reminds all too well that Jacques Lu Cont has done this sort of thing far better for a long time now.

Iain Mew: Talking about being pop as something worth aspiring to rather than reluctantly falling into is positive and all, and Pet Shop Boys have been particularly good at it this campaign. Acknowledging the high value of good pop is also to acknowledge that not just anyone can do it, though. PSBs were clearly once that not just anyone, but their best moments of recent years have all been at least one step removed and as such it’s no surprise that, in pushing for their pure pop ideal, “Did You See Me Coming?” feels needlesly hamstrung by its directness rather than strengthened by it. Kind of sweet, though.

Doug Robertson: Enjoyably slight, but still a step backwards from their last single. If “Love, etc.” — which did at least demonstrate a vision beyond their own back catalogue — struggled to convince the world that they’re still relevant today, “Did You See Me Coming?” will have the duo riding a tour bus round the nostalgia circuit before they know what’s happening to them. They deserve better.

Additional Scores

Martin Kavka: [6]
Martin Skidmore: [7]

19 Responses to “Pet Shop Boys – Did You See Me Coming?”

  1. Not a good single choice (although a quite good song), not when they have the catchiest PSB song in years — Pandemonium — waiting, but the album holds up. Not that they’ve been bad in the past few years either.

  2. Why do PSB get such a pass from you guys scorewise? Mostly positive marks, but I’m reading a bunch of negative blurbs which makes me think that anyone else proffering up this crap would be scoring 2s, 3s and 4s. I’m glad I was harsh on them. Also, I think they’ve had a definite deleterious effect on British pop over the past few years.

  3. Do explain.

  4. Speaking for myself, I’d say I still basically find their sound pleasant and familiar and comfy, even if they haven’t excited me in forever. There’s as little to dislike as there is to love.

  5. But, lex, they don’t sound like “anyone” – they always sound like the Pet Shop Boys. My score is too high, in any case: now I’d give this a 6 instead of a 7, which was in part sparked by remembering what a relief this song was after the album’s unrelieved tedium.

  6. It seems that I gave both Love Etc. its lowest score and this its highest. “Yes” is a rubbish album, and this is one of the few high points on it (I quite like “More Than A Dream” though).

    “Pandemonium” is not very good, it sounds like Rachel Stevens’ cover of “Knock On Wood”.

  7. 5/10. I only really like the first two tracks on the album (tho they’re only 7’s at best).

  8. Also it’s a bit ‘Viva La Vida’ isn’t it. Basically I would probably love it if the backing music was much more dramatic. ‘Yes’ production is tepid at best. They just seem happy to water their sound down so much just to stay afloat.

    But suddenly I’d quite like to hear Tennant have a bash at ‘In For The Kill’…

  9. I largely agree with Chuck above – I still almost always quite like them, but haven’t loved anything in a good while. I do think my deep love for their first 20 or so singles makes me slightly more generous than I would be had they always been at this standard.

  10. It’s really quite a shame that they don’t plan on releasing an edit of the 12″ “Possibly More” mix as the single mix. It bears little resemblance to the album version, and becomes a good representative of Classic Melancholy Disco. The main added line (“every night is Friday night/welcome to my life”) sounds especially mournful. As a bonus, it has an “I Want A Dog”-style rap with pat words/phrases from personal ads.

  11. I feel a big part of my problem with the Pet Shop Boys is Neil’s voice -which IMO gets progressively worse with each release. They’ve said some of the “Yes” songs were written for Kylie …I wonder if they wouldn’t sound much better if it was her singing them.

  12. Admittedly ‘The Loving Kind’ is better than any of the tracks on this album.

  13. Matias – vague, nebulous thoughts about how PSB and their aesthetic has come to represent “proper pop”, from the sensitivity to the unassuming vocal presence to the synthiness. PSB at their best were great despite all of that. Plus, I always hate to see attention being paid on a brand loyalty basis to formerly-great, currently-mediocre acts.

  14. No, lex they were great because of it. The problem is that it’s old and worn-out now. Totally agree with you though, re being loyal to artists who don’t deserve it on the basis of what they’re doing now. Pop music should be all about the opposite.

  15. I still think that formerly great act putting out lukewarm stuff and it getting oddly positive reviews would be more fitting discussed under “Love etc” than this. I mean at least Neil’s voice is halfway right for this one!

    But indeed, if you draw a line at Bilingual there are only two singles from that period onward that are as good as the 24 before.

  16. Lex, do you not retain any lingering affection for acts based on having loved them? I have got the impression from previous reviews of yours (an old Basement Jaxx one leaps to mind) that you kind of react with disgust and total rejection to a significant slump in quality. I’m not suggesting which reaction to formerly-great acts is better, but I don’t see what the objection to the lingering-affection approach is, when that is acknowledge (which it is either implicitly or explicitly by many here).

  17. It depends what form the decline takes – sometimes an act can continue holding my interest, like PJ Harvey or Kanye West – the material they’re producing now doesn’t come close to what they did at their peak, but they’re still doing interesting things, they’ve still got that artistic restlessness, they’re still in the game for a reason. With PSB and Basement Jaxx, their new stuff is just so boring – an unimaginative rehashing of what they used to do – I just think, why even bother? It’s depressing to hear, it’s almost like an insult to their peak material to go back to the same well for just the last dribbles of material. And I’m much harsher on them b/c I hold them to a higher standard.

  18. Chris Lowe told me when I interviewed him that “Viva La Vida” was his favorite record of 2008.

  19. Matos, that explains why the PSB version of “Viva La Vida” appears at the tail-end of their pandemonium tour concert. Thanks. “Did you see me coming?” (PSB Possibly More mix) is by far better than this album version. It is a pure PSB production vastly different than the album version that was probably modified to fit the album style by their producers, Xenomania.