Thursday, 25 July 2013

Please (Updated July 25th 2013)

Released in March 1986, Please is the debut album by Pet Shop Boys. Named as such so it would form a sentence, for example in record shops customers would ask "Can I have Pet Shop Boys album, please?" This was the first of two albums that they would take this logic for when choosing album titles: Actually was chosen as the title for their second album for similar reasons. In any case Please is a great debut album, although it's probably the one I listen to the least out of their trio of albums from the 1980's. As for its rating in my overall ranking of Pet Shop Boys albums it'd be firmly in the middle. The reason being I think it does suffer from a more dated production. I don't wish that to be taken as a criticism against the album, I still listen to the music here rather often.

 Initially, Please could have actually sounded quite a bit different. Pet Shop Boys producer of choice for the record was Stephen Hague, who has produced for many artists such as Erasure, New Order, OMD, Public Image Limited, Blur and Marc Almond. It was two particular tracks that he had produced though that formed the main reason that Pet Shop Boys wanted him to produce their album though: Hey DJ by The World's Famous Supreme Team and Madame Butterfly by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. EMI suggested some alternative candidates to produce the album though, interestingly one of them was none other than Stock, Aiken and Waterman! Eventually though the decision was made that Stephen Hague would be allowed to reproduce their 1984 single West End Girls and it would be re-released. I'm sure you can work out the next part: Stephen Hague's version ended becoming a massive hit and eclipsed the original version in terms of success and he got the green light for producing the entire album. The album was recorded for a tight deadline though; Suburbia was the last track recorded for the album and is really not that different from the demo mainly because they couldn't do anything else.

I have to say that I think Please is a strong debut. It's definitely somewhat more raw in terms of the music, and definitely not as polished sounding as Actually which sounds bigger, fuller and just generally a bit more grandiose. I think that actually becomes a bit of an advantage for Please though, as much as I love synthpop from the 80's sometimes I think it has a tendency to sound a bit too polished, so its nice to have an album that is more gritty. Despite growing on subsequent albums though, I think Neil's lyrics are still really good here, Love Comes Quickly and West End Girls both have brilliant sets of lyrics I think, and they really do cover more difficult and unusual subject matters even at this early stage in their career, such as urban decay, casual sex and violence. Later Tonight and Why Don't We Live Together? are two of their most overlooked album tracks I think. I was particularly pleased to see the latter receive its live debut on their Pandemonium tour to support Yes.

There are some minor preferences I have though in terms of versions though, but even still that doesn't mean I don't like the versions here. I prefer the 10" of West End Girls to the 7" (really I think its because I've heard the original so much), Suburbia's video mix is better than the album mix in my opinion also, although again I still like the album version. The only one were I much prefer a subsequent version to the original is Violence, I think the Hacienda version that was released as a B-side for I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing communicates the sentiment of the song much better, to the point were I can't really say I overly enjoy the original. I can't say I've ever really been able to get into I Want A Lover either, but I wouldn't say its a poor song by any means. The only real change I would make to the album is getting rid of the little Opportunities reprise track, only because I feel having those sort of short reprises and interludes as a stand-alone track as an album is just filler more often than not. Given the choice I'd probably replace it either with A Man Could Get Arrested or Jack The Lad most likely. It's a shame those songs would serve as two of the B-sides for the Please era singles I think

All in all though Please is still a great album that, despite it sounding a little dated now, still holds up as one of the best synthpop albums of its time. I have to admit that I much prefer artists to grow and develop into their peak rather than peak with their debut album and then burn out, so for a debut album what I look for mostly is an indication of the artists potential really, rather than peaking too soon if that makes sense. Using that criterion then Please is a highly recommended album. Although they would grow and get better with their subsequent albums you definitely get a real sense of their talent here and the album still has its fair share of classics, it has one of the most consistently great quadrant of singles you will find. A great start to a brilliant career!

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