Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Pet Shop Boys – Love is a Bourgeois Construct

No, your mum’s a bourgeois construct.

Josh Langhoff: Compare to Apollo 100’s “Joy,” which sped up a Bach chorale movement until it sounded absurd, a bravura electronic performance that parodied Baroque virtuosity and locomotion. Likewise, Michael Nyman’s 1982 soundtrack theme “Chasing Sheep Is Best Left to Shepherds” galloped along, soprano sax squawks flirting with collapse, a bravura parody of Purcell. Borrowing Nyman’s theme, “Bourgeois Construct” goes the opposite direction. When the Pet Shop Boys eliminate the acoustic instruments’ stark counterpoint and abrupt articulation, they trap Nyman inside their disco and smooth him out, which if anything makes him more bourgeois, which is probably the point and integral to the Boys’ own self-parody. So basically nice reference but I miss the gallop and it goes on too long.

Alfred Soto: As if to prove, finally, that songs are bourgeois constructs, Tennant and Lowe and producer Stuart Price flaunt their opulence: easing into the intro like Price did with “Hung Up,” sawing strings, distorted male choirs, a synth hook lifted from late seventies KC and the Sunshine Band. All this before Tennant’s vocal and lyrics, both at their apex of intelligence and compassion. “Love is a Bourgeois Construct” isn’t merely arch, a concept and approach I’d endorse anyway — it’s archness turned in on itself, it’s artifice facing a mirror, it’s Tennant accepting the game that makes love so complicated yet wanting another round. You don’t gather these insights by just living: years spent exploring the outer limits of boredom, feet up a lot, drinking tea and flicking through Karl Marx, help.

Iain Mew: With its dramatic fake-out intro setting up the entrance of Purcell to the club, accompanied by dot matrix whirrs, “Love is a Bourgeois Construct” goes on quite the journey before it even gets to the words. In the marriage of the fanfare and bass throb Pet Shop Boys take on two extremes that they haven’t done well in years and succeed in both at once. Then enter Neil Tennant, purposefully dossing, and it moves to a different level. He’s been caught by his ex wasting his life and can’t deny it, so to get the upper hand he has to turn that wasting into evidence for how everything’s working out. He’s not just over the relationship, he’s over the entire concept of love and the class that maintains it! So there. The fanfare quickens the escalation from possible unreliable narrator to biggest, most obvious lie in the world, not that Tennant needs much help as he overplays his hand so brilliantly and with such enjoyment. Though it’s a close contest whether he or Chris Lowe, triggering stuttering effects, takes the biggest pleasure in the word “bourgeoisie.” The fantasies are so grand that when they collapse in the plea of “I’m giving up the bourgeoisie… until you come back to me,” it’s inevitable, but seeing it coming doesn’t make it sting any less.

Daisy Le Merrer: Love probably is a bourgeois construct. Or at least a medieval nobility construct, which is historically completely different but this kind of fine distinction doesn’t matter much when you’re dancing away your sorrow to this song. From the Purcell via Nyman sample to the very well-read lyrics, this song is as glorious an hymn to bourgeois constructs you’ll ever find, but bou don’t need to wait for the lyrics to undermine themselves to feel the sublime pain in the lush synths layers and love denying lyrics. I’m pretty sure that some will also use this song as an “I Will Survive”-type anthem anyway, ignoring the “Until you come back to me” line. Fixed meaning is bourgeois too.

Anthony Easton: This might be the most PSB title in history. The song as a slack refusal is kind of glorious, and the line “I’ll explore the outer limits of boredom” might as well come from Veblen. Last weekend my best friend got married to a woman I adore. He works at Porsche, and she sells fancy underwear to the housewives of Richmond Hill, and they are progressives of all the right political sort. If their love becomes a bourgeois construct, and that bourgeois construct leads to rare bison and an open bar, I might not be ready to give up on love yet.

Mallory O’Donnell: Electric is the boys’ best outing in ages, their most formally “dance” since Introspective. Tennant finally relaxes his rapier wit and subsumes himself to the beats, which are as up-to-date as usual, Lowe (as always) being the never-flagging fan of the dancefloor. But this song emerges like a rancid plum in the middle of the most exquisite pie. Overloaded with gimmicky musical effects and with a title and lyric snatched from a Morrissey outtakes album, “LIABC” belies the post-rave maturity of the otherwise commendable new album. Tsk, tsk, boys.

Edward Okulicz: The only track on Electric that’s probably a little overdone, but that might just be because I’ve always thought “Left To My Own Devices,” while good, was not quite as clever as it thought. But Neil Tennant’s winking delivery and the Stuart Price-enhanced bleeps are foremost for the ears, not the intellect.

Brad Shoup: Much to chew on, but little to sink your teeth into, as a cute Porteresque story muscles out the majestic opening and a male choir out of “Go West”. Porter, of course, would never have written a seven-minute song, short pop songs being a jukebox construct. And the Boys’ story wobbles on this ground. Tennant waxes relentlessly iambic — like Stephin Merritt on his shorter, idea-first compositions — which works, one could argue, for a narrator who’s all rote justification. But as the narrator’s such a mark, there’s little poignance to glean, at least not until the downcast end, where the meter’s stretched out and tossed into the sea.

Scott Mildenhall: If you can hear this for the first time without it putting even a flicker of a smile on your face then, well, you’re obviously totally entitled to your own reactions, but still: how? Even in instrumental form it’s completely ludicrous, but paired with the lyrics? So much fun. The writing is dextrous and layered, creating an unlikeable, thoroughly 3D protagonist and in the process exploring the outer limits of sympathy. Ultimately he’s just messed up; maybe he deserves pity as much as contempt. As a whole, it’s like a compaction of their Christmas EP from a few years back: a concoction of jaded cynicism, orchestral bombast by proxy, and the love woes of an unreliable narrator. Whether through hanging on its every word, or just hearing it playing in the background somewhere, there is so much enjoyment to be taken from this song.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: If that title wasn’t an elaborate joke from the hyperactive faux-politicised annals of Tumblr.txt, I would be surprised. (Hell, I’m shocked that Karin’n’Olof didn’t nab that one already.) Yet it shouldn’t register as a surprise that the Pet Shop Boys continue taking songs like “Love is a Bourgeois Construct” to their natural conclusion, rinsing both the left and right sides of the brain for all they’re worth. It makes sense for the song to stretch to seven minutes, seeing as it tours English cultural terrain from Peter Greenaway films to prominent elderly lefties, via arch matters of the heart. That’s not to say that it completely earns its running time, but restless creation like this should usually just be left to its own devices.

John Seroff: “Construct” is a six-and-a-half-minute (and short at that) metasong about pretension and silly love songs, a prog-pop deconstruction told in a sprawling and thoroughly gooney manner. The oft-neglected twist in pulling off a dive of this difficulty is that would-be cultural commentators regularly forget to allow the listener to enjoy themselves. Not so here; PSB’s joyous 8-bit disco aesthetic draws liberally from the spirit of ELO and Daft Punk’s earlier, funny work. Upper middlebrow ennui marinated in lowbrow kicks never sounded so good.

Reader average: [8.69] (23 votes)

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6 Responses to “Pet Shop Boys – Love is a Bourgeois Construct”

  1. Might this set a record for a) longest average blurb b) longest “shortest” blurb?

    No one check.

  2. I think CL would be a recent rival for a)

  3. Hmmmmm

  4. Am I really the only one who takes the title a little bit seriously ? I may have read to many marxist theory in high school.

  5. They’re serious about joking.

  6. I think you can take it as seriously as “Opportunities”. Make of that what you will!