Pet Shop Boys | Nightlife/Further Listening 1996-2000
It’s 1999, almost 15 years since your breakout single topped the UK charts. Your highest-charting hit of the decade was a Village People cover version released six years earlier. You’re past 40. What do you do?
Most ageing artists looking for chart redemption wouldn’t release a concept album of songs from the musical they’ve been working on – including one featuring a pre-’Spinning Around’ Kylie Minogue, and another based on a classical piece by the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.
But Pet Shop Boys aren’t most ageing artists and with ‘Nightlife’ the duo once again pushed the paradigm of the pop song, astutely recruiting two of the era’s hottest producers to help them. Rollo (brother of Dido) Armstrong showed up with Faithless’ bag of tricks (‘For Your Own Good’, ‘Radiophonic’). David Morales added NYC-house flourishes to ‘I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Any More’ and ‘Go West’-leaning ‘New York City Boy’. Tennant and Lowe provided the songs (read arch lyrics and insatiable melodies), an eclectic collection that also embraced show tunes, shimmering electro-pop, full-blown orchestrations, piano ballads, and Dido.
Unsurprisingly, the 100 minutes of ‘Further Listening 1996-2000’ are equally varied, surprising, and sometimes just as good. Look beyond the demo versions of ‘Nightlife’ tracks (including an anaemic ‘Vampires’ and listless ‘Radiophonic’) for quirky curiosities like the jazzy ‘Tall Thin Men’ and seismically industrial ‘Playing In The Streets’, and such forgotten gems as the shapeshifting instrumental ‘Casting A Shadow’ and impossibly daring ‘Screaming’ that sounds like nothing else from 1999.