Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys

We went to see Pet Shop Boys play live at the Hammersmith Apollo on the 6th. It was a great gig, possibly the best of theirs that I’ve seen. This is perhaps the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen them over the years and the first time I’ve not left at least a little disappointed.

But despite the ups and downs of their live shows, they have maintained their prime position in my music collection since at least Actually came out in 1987. That makes me feel old! Of course you can’t really rationalise something that tugs at raw emotion in the way that music often can ((Something that I’ve noticed is that pretty much all of my closest friends are passionate about music. Not necessarily the same kind of thing as me, but they’re all above your typical couple of dozen CDs.)), but that has not stopped me trying to figure out why I keep listening to them ((Such are the perils of being INTP.)).

The closest thing to a conclusion I’ve come to actually relates to something that Scott Adams, the guy that does Dilbert, wrote in one of his books (and blogged about but the link appears to be missing) about drawing successful cartoons. He says that a cartoon should utilise at least a few of these qualities:

  • Cute
  • Naughty
  • Bizarre
  • Clever
  • Recognisable
  • Cruel

I’m not sure that writing songs has exactly the same requirements, but there’s certainly an overlap. One of my favourite recent tracks is “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk.” The first time you hear the title your reaction might be to think it’s funny. But the music and other lyrics are kind of sad and beautiful. And at the same time it’s almost universally recognisable. We may not have been there but we can imagine what it would be like. Each element might work individually but together they’re a killer combination.

But then, perhaps there is something to Adams’ original list. “I’m with stupid” is pretty cruel if you’re George Bush (funny otherwise); doing the sound-track to an early, black-and-white, silent, Russian film is quite bizarre; posing with a small dog on the sleeve of “Introspective” could be called ‘cute’; and appearing naked in front of the Queen is quite naughty. That last bit is on their album ‘Very’ and not some Jarvis Cocker-eque act of rebellion.

Anyway, back to the gig. I would never have remembered the set list unaided, but I did find a very helpful website that did the job for me. I created an iTunes iMix ((Unfortunately the list isn’t entirely complete. iTunes didn’t have all the tracks in the same format I have, even though I decided against including the original Bobby Orlando version of “West End Girls”!)) if you want to recreate the gig in your own living room: