A few months ago, if someone had said that an album on the state of the world from former Brit Poppers was going to be one of the best releases of the year thus far, I would have been skeptical at best… but here we are. From the ashes of the Lush reunion comes the new project from Miki Berenyi. Joining forces with her partner KJ McKillop, Elastica’s Justin Welch and Modern English’s Mick Conroy, the band released first single “Everlastingly Yours” last November and the debut album followed in February. Berenyi’s voice is as distinctive as ever and while there are clearly shoegaze elements on this release, it is not rooted in nostalgia.
In the 90s, the emotional lyrics were about drinking and relationships but here Piroshka come out firing with political lyrics that claim “I take what’s yours and I’m not going to stop” and declare that “nobody here ever escapes with no blood on their hands”. One of the best songs here, “Hated By The Powers That Be”, turns the simple “I am love” lyric into “and you should feel as proud as me because we are love and we’re hated by the powers that be”.
“Village of The Damned” about school yard shootings is somehow breezy in the weight of its subject matter and in “Everlastingly Yours” features a nice bit of Welch working the hi-hat. The ballads “Blameless” and “Heartbeats” are the two that most sound like Lush at their quieter moments. Brickbat is a timely release that has its full eyes and hearts on the here and now.
In the mid-80s, Pet Shop Boys’ sophisticated blend of electronics and classic songwriting was leading to smash hits around the globe. Following up their UK #2 album Actually, they released Introspective in October of 1988. With radio playing the shorter single versions, the album flips the script by having the longer dance versions on the album including a medley of hit single “Always On My Mind” and a previously released B-sides in extended form. Even with the unusual track listing, Introspective is the second biggest seller of PSB’s career.
The band’s first singles collection, Discography, is one of my all-time favourites but the tracks from Introspective rank as some of my least favourites. Presented here in extended form allows them to breathe a bit more. “Domino Dancing”, their last top 20 hit in the US is the most improved by this approach. The Latino horns mix with an extended percussion section before a piano appears to make the listener’s hips sway. “Left To My Own Devices” adds extra lyrics not included the single version but still contains the classic line “In the back of my head I heard distant feet/Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat”. The music fades out at 5:35 to feature a terrific piano beat.
Initially given to Patsy Kensit’s band, Eighth Wonder, the PSB version of “I’m Not Scared” is what they do extremely well; dramatic lyrics with a (harder) electronic beat. “Always on My Mind/In My House” is more minimal and gives less focus on the strings than the single version. The second half amps up the house elements and repeats “always” throughout before the first track reappears in full glory. “It’s Alright” starts out with a bit of gospel before the frivolous lyrics of wishing music to save the world comes through.
The best versions of these songs appear on the album so the Further Listening disc here is not as strong as the first disc. The demo version of “Domino Dancing” floats by (in a good way) and two versions of its Spanish/Western influenced B-side “Don Juan” appear. The jaunty chorus of “What Keeps Man Alive” sounds plucked from a West End musical whereas “I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)” and “One of The Crowd” (with its lyrics about fishing) are made for the dancefloor. The disc ends with the beautiful and touching ballad “Your Funny Uncle” about the funeral of a friend who sadly passed away from Aids. Such as it is with this period of Pet Shop Boys, even the lesser tracks are worthy and there are several diamonds scattered here.
Introspective – 9/10
Further Listening – 7.5/10