Pet Shop Boys are arguably the greatest singles band that this country has ever produced, but their albums have come under a far more critical spotlight.
For every stone cold classic of theirs (Actually, Introspective, Nightlife), there’s one where the quality dips somewhat (Elysium, Release), but on 1993’s Very they were back at the peak of their powers after a quiet couple of years following on from their self-proclaimed ‘imperial phase’, where they felt that they could literally do no wrong release wise.
In fact, Very is, somewhat unbelievably, the duo’s only number one album to date, in no small part due to the success of the lead singles ‘Can You Forgive Her’ and the UK number 2 hit ‘Go West’ as well as the first slew of CD and vinyl copies coming with a free additional 6 track mini album, entitled Relentless.
As it was available in such limited quantities (only 500 12”s were produced), the intervening years have seen both it’s price and reputation amongst PSB aficionados increase, although due to it’s absence from the streaming services, it is something of a forgotten record to the wider public, hopefully something that this release will rectify, as it undoubtedly deserves.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the boys have seen fit to give it it’s own moment in the sun, with a full release both digitally and physically.
It has a certain number of anomalies to a normal PSB release, it has no singles (in fact, all the tracks come in between 5 and 7 minutes) and, most telling, the writing credits are Lowe/Tennant, which underlines its somewhat deserved reputation of being the nearest thing we will ever have to a Chris Lowe solo album. It bears very little similarity to Very, this is pure dance (not pop) music.
The title is apt as the first pair of tracks rumble on mercilessly, the beats never let up.
‘My Head Is Spinning’, with vocals consisting of just the title repeated over a barrage of synths, and ‘Forever In Love’, which came close to being the b-side of ‘Go West‘ sees Tennant popping up in proper vocal mode for the first of only two songs on the record.
There’s no let-up with ‘KDX 125′ (named after Chris Lowe’s favourite bike rather than the name of a trendy synth) is almost jungle in it’s feel. The BPM comes down somewhat for ‘We Came From Outer Space’ which uses what sounds like film dialogue as well as a faint, rare Lowe vocal.
The last two tracks are more restrained but no less entertainingly fun.
‘The Man Who Has Everything’ with its rising Italo-piano house riff, and soaring female vocal encapsulates the sound of early 90’s Brit-dance. They recently stated that these pieces were either unfinished or tracks that they was unable to write suitable lyrics for, but this does not diminish anything, it’s all so effortlessly done, with Lowe as the ringmaster, he sounds like he’s enjoying himself immensely.
Best of all is the closer ‘One Thing Leads To Another’, where Tennant sounds almost deranged as he raps a tale of woe over a hypnotic, stuttering beat. (Fun fact, the lyrics only make sense fully as a narrative if you read them from end to beginning). It earns its place in their enormous pantheon of under-rated bangers and is the closest that the album has to a conventional Pet Shop Boys single, their trademark arch-catchiness in full effect here.
So, as it appears finally for the whole pop/dance world to enjoy, Relentless is fully deserving of its position in the PSB album catalogue, freed from the shackles of the parent record, very different but relentlessly enjoyable.
Pet Shop Boys – Relentless (Parlophone)