After the relative commercial disappointment of 1990’s Behaviour album where only one single reached the top 10, British duo Pet Shop Boys released one of the best hits compilations, Discography. The album featured their cover of U2 staple “Where The Streets Have No Name” and closed a chapter on the first part of their career. It would be a very different musical landscape the lads would return to in 1993, as grunge dominated America and the first roots of what became Britpop were starting to take hold in the UK. No one would have guessed the triumph that would arrive in the lego-like CD packaging of their fifth album, Very.
The only PSB album to reach #1 on the UK album charts, the album is both a coming out for Neil Tennant and a euphoric rush with several dancefloor hits. First single “Can You Forgive Her?” explodes out of the speakers with short symphonic stabs and biting lyrics of a troubled relationship that carried the duo back into the UK top ten. The line “She’s made you into some kind of laughing stock/because you dance to disco and you don’t like rock” still stings nearly 30 years later. “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing” is upbeat and infectious dance pop where Tennant actually sounds happy as it sailed to #2 on the Billboard dance chart. “A Different Point of View” is a harder edged track where Tennant contemplates “If I’d say black was white, you’d say it was grey/But in spite of being treated this way/I still dream of you all night and day”
“Dreaming of the Queen” and “The Theatre” are atmospheric and dreamy with a touch of darkness, especially on the latter where the chorus spoken from the point of view of London’s homeless fumes venom. “Yesterday, When I was Mad” returns to the dancefloor with compressed vocals and amusing quotes about touring musicians. Pet Shop Boys turned in a cover of The Village People’s disco anthem “Go West” for an AIDS charity that eventually went to #2 on the UK singles chart. Their version slows the song down and adds much humanity and emotion which hints and both gay liberation and the opening of Russia to the rest of the Western world. It is a very effecting track that continues their streak of expert cover versions. While Very is more heavily loaded at the front with memorable songs, it mixes the theatrical, pop and dancefloor on one of PSB’s finest releases.
The Further Listening compilation is a bit more hit and miss than past collections but still includes several highlights. The 7” of “I Wouldn’t Normally…” ups the BPM and adds Beatlesque horns. “Too Many People” is a slick dance track where Tennant sings about having many different identities while “Shameless” celebrates plastic C-list celebrities that would further increase with the rise of social media. “Decadence” has a bouncy synth buried in the mix that is more effecting than it’s A-side ballad, “Liberation”. After remixing blur’s smash “Girls and Boys”, Pet Shop Boys close out the disc with a live cover version.
Very – 9/10
Further Listening – 7.5/10