Tuesday, September 27, 2016

1990 - Behaviour

The Pet Shop Boys travel to Munich to enlist the skills of Harold Faltermeyer. At their insistence they employ the use of analogue synthesizers reminiscent of Donna Summer's during her sojourn in the Bavarian capital under the tutelage of Faltermeyer. The result is magnificent. A 1990 review from The Baltimore Sun called it the "Steve McQueen of synthpop." It's an autumnal masterpiece; as epic as it is introspective, as dry and aching as it is beautiful. The overarching orchestral arrangements by Twin Peaks' Angelo Badalamenti are magnificent.  

The confessional, guitar driven (Johnny Marr) and beautiful "This Must Be the Place I've Waited Years to Leave," is Neil's Catholic upbringing under scrutiny again, like a somber "It's a sin." "To Face the Truth," "Nervously," and "Only the Wind" are cut from the same slinky minimal synthetic arrangements, while "Being Boring", the epic dance hall anthem, utilizes the quaint English fashion of wistfully looking back with red tinted spectacles. “So Hard" is a symposium in writing intelligent pop music; a monument of contained yet perplexing interwoven melodies: "We've both given up smoking, so whose matches are those?" Beautiful and heart-wrenching.

"My October Symphony" is a love affair of cold war orchestral flourishes with a killer lyric, and "How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?" is a wonderfully barbed swipe at pop stars who take the pulpit to preach environmental issues. No doubt many really do have hearts in the right place, but the PSBs expose a too often vapid and pretentious grandstanding.

A beautifully understated album filled with quiet, melancholic poetics, perfect for wistful winter days. Behavior, in all respects, is the Pet Shop Boys best and most mature work. The overall result is an album on which the songs feel inhabited rather than insulated by wit and intelligence. Following the perky disco of "Introspective," Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe create a mature, nuanced album surrounding the themes of growing up, AIDS, Catholic guilt, infidelity, and insecurity. This isn't earth shattering stuff, nor is it evolutionary, so why the AM10 and the album of the year designation? This was the LP on which EDM and technopop merged with intelligent, singer/songwriter sensibilities. Dance and thoughtfulness were not, are not, mutually exclusive. Behaviour was more an evocative look back than a step forward, but more than 25 years later, PSBs are still making music that matters, dance music that matters - imagine that?