The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'pet shop boys'
A 1992 essay by Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys about the positive value of hatred:
That’s the thing about negative energy, about hatred. It can be positive. It throws into relief all the things you know you like. It tells you, by elimination, what you’re about. Sometimes you can only define yourself by what you hate. Hatred becomes an inspiration; it makes you think, “What I’m doing now I totally believe in, and I don’t care what other people say.” Guided by hatred, you don’t have to follow the herd.
Of course, these days it’s more fashionable to be positive. I hate positivity. The problem with positivity is that it’s an attitude that’s decidedly about lying back, getting screwed, and accepting it. Happily. It’s totally apolitical. It’s very, very personal and one-on-one. It’s not about changing society, it’s about caring about yourself. In fact, it’s totally about ignoring one’s economic role in society, and so it works in favor of the system. Just look at work years of personal consciousness theories have given us: those icons of the status quo, George Bush and John Major.While this essay was written in 1992, when the World-Wide Web was confined to a particle physics institute in Switzerland, it is arguably more relevant than ever in today's relentlessly (and profitably) boosteristic online culture of Like buttons, Tumblr blogs, Pinterest and an online culture of comment whose language is lopsidedly positive, and much poorer in expressing hate, dislike or even a neutral interest without approval.
Positivity is fundamentally middle-class. It’s about having the time, the space and the money to sort out where your head is at. Therapy is just another side of positivity. It’s a leisure activity, a luxury for people who don’t have any real cares. It’s new age selfishness, the new way of saying that charity begins at home. And positivity makes the world stay the same. Hatred is the force that moves society along, for better or for worse. People aren’t driven by saying, “Oh wow, I’m at peace with myself.” They’re driven by their hatred of injustice, hatred of unfairness, of how power is used.Tennant doesn't spare the pop music of his peers at the time:
Another thing I hate, and another inspiration for what the Pet Shop Boys do, is the way people misunderstand pop culture. It annoys me that after more than twenty-five years, Top of the Pops, Britain’s most important pop-music TV program, changed the rules so that you have to sing live. Why? Because the people in control are the kind of conservatives who think that in the ‘60s, everything was much more talented than they are now. It’s all about Rolling Stone rock culture, which is essentially a fear of the new. Rolling Stone’s idea of a musician is Jerry Garcia, from the 60s. Look at all the ‘new’ artists – Curtis Stigers, Michael Bolton, Lenny Kravitz – all of them living in the past. I think you have to live in the future. Or at least in the present.One could argue that some progress has been made; that, while today's popular-music practitioners are expected to have at least the equivalent of a Master's degree in pop-music history, and to be able to produce an extensively footnoted mix CD of influences to lend support to their works, they are freer to mix and match influences from the past half-century or so of the pop canon, rather than slavishly retreading one particular epoch of rockist purity. Though that's possibly due to the rise of YouTube and Wikipedia, something that the backward-looking rockers of the early 1990s didn't have.
Animal liberation group Peta, last heard of renaming fish as "sea kittens" to discourage people from eating them, has asked the Pet Shop Boys to change their name to the "Rescue Shelter Boys", a more worthy and right-on appelation:
According to Peta representative Yvonne Taylor, the cuddly image of the pet shop is one that belies the often terrible conditions dogs, cats and even hamsters have to suffer while living in them. "With an emphasis on quantity rather than quality," Taylor writes, "unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders pass from one generation of puppies and kittens to the next. Many animals end up with abnormalities that result in both heartbreak and high veterinary bills for the unsuspecting people who buy them.
The letter, posted on Pet Shop Boys' website, continues to paint a thoroughly bleak picture of the reality of pet shops before cunningly suggesting that "agreeing to change your name to the Rescue Shelter Boys, you would help raise awareness about the cruelty involved in the pet trade and encourage your millions of fans to consider giving a home to an abandoned or unwanted animal from an animal shelter. So, what do you say?"I thought that Peta opposed the keeping of pets on principle, as being inherently exploitative, and on a par with slavery/the Holocaust.
In any case, the Pet Shop Boys have declined to comply with the request, whilst acknowledging that it "raises an issue worth thinking about".
The Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant enumerates the greatest people in British history in an interview with Johnny Marr for the Graun:
In the 20th century, looking at the people who changed the way we think, it would be the guy who designed the Apple computer, who's British, Jonathan Ive. The Beatles changed the world, as did the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. The Beatles' impact is possibly greater than Winston Churchill's. Before that, you might have the committee that translated the Bible because they created, more than Shakespeare, a musical kind of language that was probably one of the things that made us a musical country. And I would say Gilbert and Sullivan. So much modern British music has come from Gilbert and Sullivan. You could even say that rap music comes from that, with an incredible emphasis on rhyme and rhythm.
Two CDs I picked up in the past week or so and have been listening to a fair bit:
- West End Girls, West End Girls Go Petshopping. West End Girls are a Pet Shop Boys cover band consisting of two teenaged Swedish girls. And they don't only perform covers of PSB's songs, they actually pretend to be Neil and Chris, emulating their respective personalities in their public appearances and posing in videos and photos looking bored with dogs and architecture and such. Goes Petshopping is an album of their covers of various songs from PSB's career, from early ones (West End Girls and Love Comes Quickly appear) to later ones (there is a rather good version of You Only Say You Love Me When You're Drunk). The music itself is vaguely eurodancey in production, though not excessively cheesy (though the version of It's A Sin does sound slightly too reminiscent of the Crazy Frog to be entirely comfortable with; the rest, however, is better). Standout tracks: Domino Dancing, Being Boring.
- CSS, Cansei de Ser Sexy. CSS (whose name translates as "I'm tired of being sexy") are a bunch of Brazilian kids who look like American Apparel models and/or Vice Magazine "Do's" and make a sort of edgy electro-tinged fashionpunk with a touch of Peaches-style rap, and tongue firmly in cheek. In a sense, this is to the whole electrocoolsie milieu what Wolfmother is to cock-rock: it takes its glamour and shallowness and name-dropping and hypersexuality and coked-up over-it attitude, exaggerates it, takes the piss out of it, and has a damn good dance whilst doing so. (Sample song titles: "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex", "Meeting Paris Hilton" (which probably merits a discussion of its own, for the way it sends up and comments on the celebrity-obsessed media culture through the combination of sexual desire, sneering contempt and consumeristic excitement in its lyrics), and the classic "Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above", which is perhaps an anthem for our times.) Standout tracks: a lot of them; the ones mentioned above, for three, and This Month, Day 10.
I recently picked up the Pet Shop Boys' Back To Mine compilation. It's the same deal as the others; a bunch of tracks selected by the compilers, mixed together into a seamless mix. The interesting thing about this one is that it is a double CD, with one disc selected by each of the Pet Shop Boys.
And they are quite different; Chris Lowe's disc is mostly italo-disco with some gospel and soul, whereas Neil Tennant's tends towards a cool, cerebral mix of contemporary classical and glitchtronica (and, indeed, the sort of thing you might expect to hear on Utility Fog in Sydney or one of the more avant-garde programmes on 3RRR). The one artist they have in common: Dusty Springfield (of course).
Also recently on the Net, a symphonic darkwave/trip-hop cover of Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls from London rivethead muso Deathboy (MP3). It's pretty good, and manages to steer well clear of the bad industriogothic cliches.
Pet Shop Boys Song-by-Song Commentary; a detailed analysis of the Boys' songs, with backstories and other information. In case you ever wondered what exactly West End Girls was about, or how they came up with the cover artwork and titles for various albums. (via Cos)