Anonymous asked: Can you pick the Mount Rushmore of Pet Shop Boys back up? You mentioned you'd have to have a longer think about it - and I'd be interested in knowing where to start...
OK - “where to start” is Discography, the initial singles compilation taking you to 1992 - it presents the singles in order and will give you as good an introduction as you might need. The more widely available compilation, Pop Art, has all their singles up to 2005 or so, but quality and consistency tail off dramatically after 1993’s Very.
My actual Mt Rushmore picks are singles or remixes thereof.
"Always On My Mind/In My House": Version of their Elvis cover from the Introspective album, features Neil Tennant rapping and my sentimental favourite breakdown of all time, as they FINALLY drop the enormous synth riff they added to the song.
"Can You Forgive Her?": I’m always a bit wary of critical lines about how complex the subject matter of this or that pop song is (as opposed to the rest of the charts, don’t you know), but “Can You Forgive Her” is pretty knotty - a horrible Gordian knot of anger and denial in fact, with the song as the crisis point and synth chords as demolition balls. It’s a love triangle - a man, his female lover, his lost male lover - pivoting on who knows what about who, with Tennant playing third party or conscience, a performance of cold, controlled fury.
"Being Boring": When I was young this was one of my least favourite Pet Shop Boys singles. Now it’s close to the top, not just because of its gut-punch final line, but because the quiet pride at a life lived reasonably well is such a rare - unique, probably - emotion for a pop song. If you can look on your youth and think about it like Tennant thinks about his here, you’ve done OK, I’d say. (Wonderful music, too - that spacious “sound of 1990” skitter-and-synth production, and some earned, sparkly, sentimentality)
"What Have I Done To Deserve This?": Relationships, power and money in the 80s - from their Thatcher-era concept album (YES IT IS SHUT UP) Actually, a duet with Dusty Springfield whose weathered but splended singing takes some of the edge off Tennant’s thin voice to make this their lushest single - I will never ever get tired of how the hooks from each singer collide.