Pet Shop Boys | Release/Further Listening 2001-2004
If ‘Actually’ is the one with all the hits, ‘Introspective’ the one with all the extended dance mixes, ‘Behaviour’ the commercially disappointing masterpiece, and ‘Very’ the one with ‘Go West’ and those pointy orange hats, ‘Release’ is Pet Shop Boys’ “guitar album”.
But, released at the height of nu-metal, this is no attempt by Tennant and Lowe to elbow Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park off the top of the charts. Instead, as to be expected, their elegant eighth studio album subtly incorporates tasteful guitar work courtesy of The Smiths’ Johnny Marr. Regardless of whether he’s strumming an acoustic, laying down atmospheric textures with his effects pedals, or playing a bonafide solo on ‘Birthday Boy’, his contributions never feel like an afterthought.
That he’s such an integral part of these 10 often subdued songs is all the more remarkable in light of the bonus material. Over the two discs of ‘Further Listening 2001-2004’ – which run the gamut from high-NRG anthems (the balearic ‘Love Life’, pulsating ‘Try It’, dayglo rave ‘Here’) to the ethereal ‘Numb’ – it’s only the New Order-lite ‘I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today’ that has any traces of guitar.
Considering the variety of music Tennant and Lowe were creating at the time – including a couple of stellar Elton John collaborations that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 2017 album by The Killers – ‘Release’ could just as easily have been the one with all the club bangers. That it isn’t is testament to Pet Shop Boys’ continued desire to try something different.