Friday, 9 August 2013

Pet Shop Boys - Introspective

Introspective is the third studio album by the Pet Shop Boys, released in 1988. It is their best selling album overall and also remains a favorite with critics and fans alike. The album was produced by Trevor Horn who would also produce Fundamental almost twenty years later. On Introspective they embrace the burgeoning house music/club scene (almost) fully. The result? The only truely club oriented Pet Shop Boys album along with Electric. When I originally wrote this post, I was critical of the album, but I've been listening to it quite a bit lately and I have to admit that I now would consider it among my favorite Pet Shop Boys albums!

This is a very unusual Pet Shop Boys album. Firstly, the album only contains six tracks. However, the track lengths are all long. In fact, every song on the album is 6 minutes at the least. This also goes against the grain of many traditional albums containing songs that are the more standardised length of 3-4 minutes. This concept was one that they had envisaged since work commenced on the record. Initially, this definitely made the album one of my least favourite Pet Shop Boys albums as I felt that the extended mixes more often than not just didn't add anything to the tracks. I have to admit though, that the tracks have grown on me immensely and I actually prefer some of them to their shorter versions! The only track that I feel is bettered on the single release was It's Alright.

Whilst you have to admire them for going against the grain with this album you could argue it also hindered them to a degree: some fans may have been disappointed that the singles were very different to the album versions. Especially in the case of Always On My Mind - this was the first time it was on an album. Neil himself admitted in a speech to the Oxford Union that he regretted the album being released so soon after Actually and that the 12" nature of the tracks may have been a hindrance to the band long term and the success of their next album, Behaviour which is one of their least successful commercially.

Interestingly also, the album only features two songs written specifically for the record itself. These being Domino Dancing and Left To My Own Devices. Always On My Mind was actually released as a single a year prior to the albums release during the Actually era, I Want A Dog was a former B-side and I'm Not Scared (which was written by Pet Shop Boys for Eighth Wonder) and It's Alright are cover versions. Also, all of the albums tracks were singles or at least featured on one in some format: Eighth Wonder released I'm Not Scared as a single and I Want A Dog was a remix of the original, which had featured as Rent's B-side. Despite the songs coming from all these different places though the album is still consistently good, there's no track on the album I particularly dislike. I'm Not Scared remains one of their great forgotten masterpieces I think. It's also remarkable that the album sounds as cohesive as it does really.

In terms of lyrical themes, there isn't really any. Although there is a definite concept to the album: that of clubbing. The tracks are all extended in length which would obviously cater to clubs and DJ's. Not only that, but closing track It's Alright is a cover version of a house music track, house pioneer Frankie Knuckles remixed I Want A Dog for the album and Neil felt the the album title of Introspective sounded "a little ravey". Most significantly Always On My Mind also is mashed up with an acid-house (the dance music style of the time) track called In My House.

As for the title - it stemmed from the fact that they are dance songs, but have introspective lyrics, along with the additional aforementioned reason that the title sounded ravey. Personally I have to wonder why they didn't save the title for Behaviour, as its overall themes of reflection would make that more suitable surely. Although on repeated listening I came to appreciate that it is an introspective album. The album was actually going to be titled Bounce initially, in reference to the fact they have bouncy bass-lines. The unreleased demo of the same name was also going to be on the album too. Personally I wouldn't call the tracks bouncy, although there's definitely a strong club oriented theme.

Overall,I have to say this album has grown on me so much. Initially, it would have been one of my least favourite Pet Shop Boys albums, but there's definite layers to Introspective. It's interesting to compare the album to Electric - the only other truly club oriented album in their discography. When I look at the two side by side I can definitely appreciate that for a synth-pop club album Introspective does deserve its name, definitely more than I initially thought. Nevertheless, it's another very strong Pet Shop Boys album!

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