Photo: Pelle Crepin
This has been quite a year for Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. First they were honored and performed at the Brit Awards with an Outstanding Contribution To Music award. Then they released their incredible 10th studio album, Yes, to critical and commercial acclaim, which (so far) has featured two Billboard number one US dance chart hits (making them the current “lead” in this category for duos or groups) first with “Love, etc.” followed by “Did You See Me Coming?” Then they embarked on the incredible Pandemonium Tour to promote Yes and released another single from it, Beautiful People, (first in Germany as a CD and then in America as a digital release) and along the way have also been nominated for another Grammy award. As if this weren’t enough, December brings the much-anticipated Christmas EP and it’s lead British radio track “All Over The World.” Think of it as the Pet Boys Boys’ early Christmas gift to us all, especially since it is being released internationally at nearly the same time and we don’t have to wait until after Christmas to enjoy it!
Reproduced by the Boys with Marius de Vries (Annie Lennox, Björk) “All Over The World” with its awesomely over-the-top Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite melody and absurdly catchy chorus of “this is a song/about boys and girls/you hear it/playing all over the world” is irresistible. While not rerecorded, this “New Version” as it is entitled, is punchier and has new orchestral and choir arrangements by de Vries and Matt Robertson. I’ve always admired Tennant and Lowe’s willingness to experiment with their music, whether it be remixing it, rerecording it or here, reinterpreting it.
Likewise, their great Christmas track “It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas” gets the same treatment. Initially released to fan club members only (and then on a now out-of-print Starbucks compilation in the US), it is fantastic to finally get this released properly so more people can enjoy it. “The Christmas message was long ago lost/now it’s all about shopping and how much things cost,” quips Tennant while Lowe creates a hypnotic hi-NRG backdrop to support him. And once again, this “New Version” is livelier and simply sounds better than the low quality download I’ve had to settle with for the past few years.
Last year a benefit was held for the family of Dainton Connell (the Pet Shop Boys’ former assistant and friend, who was tragically killed in a car accident) and a highlight from that was their interpretation of the Madness classic “My Girl,” which was performed at London’s Heaven nightclub with Suggs and Carl of Madness. While I confess I wasn’t familiar with this song (really only knowing “Our House”) their wonderful studio take is included here as is a remix cleverly called “Our House Mix.” And while it would have been nice to have at least one remix of “All Over The World,” I’m not complaining.
But perhaps the greatest surprise of all is the inclusion of their studio version of “Viva La Vida/Domino Dancing” produced by Stuart Price (Madonna, The Killers). An utter thrill of the Pandemonium Tour, this mash-up of the Coldplay hit and the Boys’ own classic track is truly phenomenal. Not that they haven’t done this successfully before--like when they combined U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” for instance--but there is just something extraordinarily magical about seeing this live that sends audiences (myself included) into a frenzy. The studio version is excellent and equally hypnotic and helps make this EP (already great) that much better.
The Pet Shop Boys’ fantastic Christmas EP was released digitally Tuesday, December 15th on iTunes and Amazon.