Pet Shop Boys / Release: Further Listening 2001-2004

 

Release: Further Listening 2001 - 2004 (2017 Remastered Version)

‘Release’, featuring Johnny Marr on guitar, entered the top ten in the UK album charts on its release in 2002. This remastered edition comes with two ‘Further listening’ albums of additional tracks, including unreleased songs ‘Motoring’, ‘The night is a time to explore who you are’, ‘Run, girl, run’ and ‘Reunion’, as well as previously-unreleased John Peel versions of ‘A powerful friend’ and ‘If looks could kill’ and a previously-unreleased cover version of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone again, naturally’ featuring Elton John.

The Analysis—-

Disc One:

Home And Dry—-It was obvious, from the first strains of this track, that this was release going in a somewhat different direction…but change is good for the soul right? The synths are very understated and the guitar playing is very present…something never really heard on a PSB release. It took me awhile to truly embrace this song…but the beautiful voice of Tennant made it easier. This has grown on me over the years.

I Get Along—-For me, this track was perfect from the very first listen. This was, for me, the Boys attempt to embrace the Oasis crowd so prevalent at the moment. This would have been a perfect song for that entity. There is a remarkable brightness to the piano synth line….accompanied by an underbelly of sadness that sucks you in. Neil delivers a wonderful vocal…where he actually sings his way through an entire song. The crescendo on the chorus is just fantastic.

 

Birthday Boy—-A somewhat quaint and touching track. I love the gentle swells of music and the present but understated guitar strums. Neil again delivers a stellar vocal…the man never seems to age…his voice as crisp and clear as the day I first heard him sing. The melody line that runs through the song brings a melancholy feel to the listener…it is very easy to lose yourself in the feeling. The closest they came, at the time, to a Christmas song. Marr delivers a wonderful soaring guitar solo to the song….

London—-For me, this is classic PSB. The vocal play…a slight vocoder delivery is fantastic. I love when Neil really lets his voice soar and sings in that perfect clear voice of his. The song begins subtle but then becomes more lively…helping the fans to feel more at home with the classic Lowe synth sound. I love this track.

E-Mail—-A track that shows it’s age a bit…at the time we were all just becoming so dependent on E-mail for everything. This was timely at the moment…but evolution has dated it. I suppose the sentiment of the song still holds true today. The synth is so understated and simple of this entire CD…but still manages to carry the trademark feel of the band. This is nice to hear again..it’s been awhile.

The Samurai In Autumn—-Right from the onset, the listener feels a bit more comfortable with this track…it has that remarkable Lowe sound to it that literally defines the sound…just as important as Tennant’s vocal. There is always that remarkable sad feeling that runs through the underbelly of every PSB composition. This is a beautifully constructed track…with odd ebbs and flows…but a damn addictive melody line.

Love Is A Catastrophe—-Dense and layered with an emotional melody line that takes place from the first notes. Neil sings with an almost dis-embodied voice at first…then seems to allow his pain to show through. The track has an incredibly lonely feel to it…making you fall right into the despair that is lyrically produced. I really love bands that make me FEEL something. This is brilliant!

Here—-Again, this has a more pleasant and upbeat synth line that is contagious and damn poppy! Tennant phrases his words with such clarity and emotion you truly feel his emotions. The chorus is breath-taking….staying in your head and allowing you to look back on what was a really under-appreciated release at the time. This is a brilliant track. It makes me feel happy.

The Night I Fell In Love—-A wonderfully controversial song at the time it was released, as you know this was an ode to Eminem…without actually coming out and saying so. Tennant delivers a vocal that is almost giddy with enthusiasm….truly speaking of how we all feel about meeting our heroes or whatever..lol. This goes a bit further…but the sentiment is remarkable…I love this memory.

You Choose—-Rounding out the proper release with a track that carries another load of emotional feeling and lyrics. Tennant seems to have been going through something…lol. I like that he is never shy about using the proper pronouns and pretending these intense emotional songs are about women….this is gentle..layered in emotion…but left me wanting something more synth heavy on this release. But it holds up well…after all this time.

Disc Two:

Between Two Islands—-Classic in sound, there is something about the Boys and the sound they have perfected. You can never be mistaken when you hear this band. The somewhat jaunty feel to the synth is really nice. The keyboard produced horns add a body to the song..the lyrical and vocal delivery is the same fare as the proper release….love….wanting love…losing love. This is brilliant.

Searching For The Face Of Jesus—-Sounding a bit more like material from the Release album, there is guitar here…perfectly blended with the synth line that comes and goes. Tennant delivers another higher pitched vocal that to me is remarkable to look back on…it can’t be easy to sing like that. But he is…MASTERFUL…as always.

 

Time On My Hands—-Already included on the Disco 3 release, it is nice to hear this again…simply because it is a huge track. The synth line, the bass…the tempo of the song. This is what the fans crave from this band. This has one of those rare vocal snips from Chris Lowe…and it is addictive as hell. This is a huge romp through Acid House inspired dance…this is a brilliant song. When Tennant adds his voice….it becomes even better!!!

Motoring/Demo—-For me, right from the onset, this is a noisy and somewhat unorganized track. The music that lies underneath the vocal is so erratic and distracting it is hard to pay attention to the lyrics. The chorus…addictive and melodic, saves the track from obscurity. Not a favorite…and that is saying something. This is a band that rarely makes a mis-step.

Love Life—-Fantastic….this has a throwback sound that brings a smile to my face no matter how hard I try to deter it. The music that Lowe supplies is so damn addictive. Tennant seems to float right on top of the synth line…and the back drop vocals gives the song a huge feel. The break in the middle of the song is brilliant….filling the dance-floor in my brain with beautiful boys and wild girls. Magnificent!

Transparent—-Bringing out the vocoder on the vocal again. for me it does work as well on this track. You can hear Sylvia in the backdrop providing a vocal. The music is static and a little erratic. Not a bad song…but the inspiration does not seem sincere.

Sexy Northerner—-Also included on Disco 3, this track is acceptable…at least compared to the previous song. I don’t really understand the British concept of Northerners and such….so this kind of goes over my head. The pace of the song is brilliant…and the magical break in the track makes it standout as it is really unexpected. This is fantastic.

The Night Is A Time To Explore Who You Are/Demo—-I really don’t think I have heard this track before…it has a feeling of unfamiliarity. The vocal is very odd…at the onset it sounds so filtered that you would not even guess it was Neil singing. When the proper vocal comes through, it is a nice melancholy feeling track that breeds an emotional response in my psyche. I like it…but would not pay a lot of attention to it usually.

Closer To Heaven/Slow Version—-A track from the Nightlife release, this has been floating around for a really long time…not sure the necessity of it being included here. I like this version…the subtle piano synths are addictive as hell. The vocal is brilliant…to me the entire Nightlife release was a damn masterpiece. Just not sure why this is on here…..

Run, Girl, Run/Demo—-This track sounds perfectly at home on this collection. The synth lines are familiar and the vocal from Neil is literally breathtaking. There is perfection in this band, and generally they never make a mis-step. This is a brilliant, melancholy, emotion layered track that suck me right in. Masterful!

I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today—-When I listen to this, I automatically think of The Beatles right from the onset…that guitar line is right out of the sound book. When the chorus breaks in…I promise you…you will be singing this song for days. it is a perfect recipe of PSB sounds and a throwback joyous feel of shiny pop mastery. This is brilliant!

 

Always—-Falling back into the more ambient feel of the Release mood B-sides, this is moody has has a lot of dark corners. Tennant delivers a sad and lonely vocal that lies on top of the Lowe synth line and wraps around you like a warm blanket. It is easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of these songs….the ability to transport emotion is remarkable.

Home And Dry/Ambient Mix—-This version of the song is less guitar based and much darker and moody in tone. I actually prefer this version over the original..it falls easily into the PSB catalog than the other. This has a lot of ‘air’ to it…it allows for more emotion and layers of feeling. This is brilliant.

Bright Young Things/Demo—-You can tell….from the very first strains of the song, that this was recorded during the proper sessions of Release. It carries a very familiar synth line…and a familiar emotional feel to the track. This is really nice…not sure that I have heard this…this is spectacular. I have often said…some of the B-sides this band produces are even better than the A-sides…how do you choose? This is wonderful.

Kazak—-This is much needed at this point! This song travels! The speed of the synth line is spectacular…making me want to jump up and lose control. This is brilliant…the energy is literally infectious. I love it. This is a Lowe masterpiece…he always delivers these odd romping tracks that Neil tries to wrap his vocal around…this needs nothing else….just the joyous romp through abandon!

A Powerful Friend/John Peel Version—-This as well…contains an infectious 80’s inspired synth line that fills me with joy and youthful abandon. Tennant delivers such a strong vocal….this is a fantastic surprise. I love the energy…the lyrics…well…we can all relate to that. This is brilliance!

If Looks Could Kill/John Peel Version—-I think this original is also included on Disco 3….but this is different enough to recapture my attention. The feel of the song is different than other versions I have heard before. I love the high vocal and the flowing and romping synth line that Lowe produces. This is wonderfully delivered. I love these guys.

Disc Three:

Try It [I’m In Love With A Married Man]—-ALSO taken from Disco 3….why did I buy it? This is a wonderful track…but I don’t need all of these copies of the same song. The sentiment is almost hilarious…but very relatable to anyone who has been in this position. Kudos to Neil for singing such a blatant track.

Here/PSB New Extended Mix—-Huge addictive synth lines…the kind of ‘remix’ that is a DJ’s wet dream, this has many opportunities to mix…remix….and bring everyone crashing back down in a sopping sweat filled pile. This is brilliant….I love the energy…I love that the melody line NEVER disappears….wish the vocal was more fore front. Mid track the classic vocal lines appear…I love that phrasing.

If Looks Could Kill—-I’m not going to say it again…yes this is a redux…fans already have this. Its pleasant enough…it fit perfectly in the hyper-kinetic energy of Disco 3…I would prefer something else besides redux music. I’m OK with it though…or not.

A Powerful Friend—-Huge swirls of atmosphere…..a wonderful vocal all come together out of the silence and tell a tale of something many of us can relate to. When the swirls of dark fog swirl around the song it just fills me with awe. The slight beat emerges from the dank feel…but never loses the feelings of disdain and helplessness…..this is brilliant!

Party Song—-Hyper-kinetic synth lines with a slight distortion added clear the way for Tennant to come out and invite you to the party. The way he sings/talks is phenomenal here. There are nice back tracks that fill out the track. This is fun and perfect as a filler song late at nite…I love this.

No Excuse/Demo—-i’m not so sure I’m too familiar with this track. This is dark at the onset…but seems to beg to open up as it progresses. Neil enters with a static vocal…it slowly takes shape as it develops. I like this…but this is really a bit odd for me. I like the chorus part of the song…but I would pass this up.

Blue On Blue—-With a intro synth line that sounds like Love To Love You Baby, this captured my attention right away…the familiar line comes and goes but drives the song. The vocal seems pushed to the back and comes across as ‘removed’ from the song…it is the music that is the star of this track….really great.

Jack And Jill Party/Demo—-This has a very familiar feel to it…at the onset it reminds me of If Looks Could Kill…..then it becomes a bit more static. I really dislike the vocal on this song….it is too high…removed from the front of the song and falls flat for me.

Baby/Demo—-Swirling around your head and filled with that classic trademark vocal from Neil, this is a perfect song. I love the Erasure style synth line…and how the beat and energy never drowns out the voice. This is wonderful…I’m smiling again.

Flamboyant/Original Demo—-Outside of the B-side Screaming, I believe this may be my favorite PSB track ever. Why this was never released as a proper single is beyond me. It has everything…an irresistible melody…a remarkable lyric and vocal…this for me is a pure masterpiece of music.

 

Miracles—-I enjoy this track…but it was really a mystery why this was released as a single instead of Flamboyant. I guess the content and the lyrics are more acceptable. The song…after numerous listens has become a nice part of my playlist..it does indeed contains that magical hook and synth line…the construction of a perfect pop song.

Flamboyant/7″ Mix—-There is little to add to what I consider one of the most perfect PSB songs ever recorded. There is a great musical line…a vocal that is beyond compare…lyrics full of irony and hilarity…and realism. This for me is a masterful song.

Numb/Demo—-A track that would find it’s perfect place on the Fundamental release, the demo version is as dark and magnificent as the version that landed on the album. This is a masterful song…allowing you to really feel everything that you might be feeling currently in your life. This can make me cry at the right time…or happy as well…that is the sign of a masterpiece.

In Private/featuring Elton John—-Perhaps one of the most brilliant pairings in pop music, this is a perfect storm of talent. The sentiment of the song is clear…the delivery is cataclysmic. These two phenomenal musical entities created a masterpiece I will never stop listening to. This is brilliant!

Alone Again, Naturally/ featuring Elton John—-Anyone who grew up in the 70’s can easily recognize this song….to consider these two artists tackling it is momentous. I love this version…the emotion…the feeling…the new fresh synth feeling from Lowe…this is a magical moment.

Reunion/Electro Mix—-Not really what I would call Electro, the song is still pleasant and addictive in delivery. I love the vocal…as always….Neil sounds masterful. I consider the music a slight bit downbeat…but it is addictive none the less. Really like having this.

Bright Young Things—-Really dense and intense in tone, I like the intricate synth lines that wrap around the vocal from Tennant. This is wonderfully delivered….the mood swings are subtle enough to provide interest that never ebbs. A favorite of mine…it has an epic feel.

We’re The Pet Shop Boys—-This song has been floating around for a bit…so it is not new and fresh for me….but I like the delivery here…the deep and dense feel of the synth is like the sun coming out in a storm…it develops right before your eyes. This is almost perfect…I love how Neil literally croons….magical.

It’s A Sin/Electro Mix—-I am surprised…I don’t recall ever hearing this version before! This is incredibly fresh and sounds updated…I love this. I love the swirls of music…the slight crashes and the escalating synth line…Brilliant.

*****out of 5

 

 

 

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