Sunday, November 19, 2006

Music: Concrete • Pet Shop Boys

• PSB turn down the electronics with the BBC Orchestra.

Genres: Pop, synthpop, live
Released: October 2006 (import; U.S. release appears to be coming in December)
Verdict: &&&1/2

The Boys do this lush, 17-song concert performance with the BBC Concert Orchestra no favors by calling it Concrete, but such is the sometimes-pretentious world of PSB. Despite numerous concerts in their past, it took them 20 years to go the live album route, and it's more engaging than one might expect, although most fans are going to quibble with some of the song choices. I never cared for the Angelo Badalamenti arrangement of "Rent," which brings out the worst in Neil Tennant's vocal delivery — why mess with pop perfection? I could also do without "Nothing Has Been Proved," written for Dusty Springfield back in the day, and "Friendly Fire," which is one of their best songs but thoroughly butchered here by Frances Barber. Other guest appearances, however, provide some of the liveliest moments: "Casanova in Hell," with its too-cute lyrics, seems tailor-made for the vocal flair of Rufus Wainwright, and the PSB-loving Robbie Williams turns in a fine performance of the gloomy, over-the-top ballad "Jealousy." The inclusion of the hypnotic "Dreaming of the Queen" is a pleasant surprise, while the obscure "After All" from Battleship Potemkin is unlikely to pleasantly surprise anyone. Benefiting the most from the live players are tracks like "Left to My Own Devices" (obviously) and "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk," while "Integral" and "West End Girls" come off surprisingly well with acoustic drums. And solid as this live effort may be, I still don't want to call it Concrete.


GEL said...

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Although my eyes are currently bloodshot, instead of green, from tweaking my template for a few hours, I wanted to compliment you on your blog: from the layout to its well-written content. I enjoy music immensely and the arts are my life, so I will definitely return to digest your posts.

Jebb said...

Thanks for stopping by! I formerly used the categories hack devised by, but I transferred the blog to Blogger Beta about six weeks ago and am using its excellent new category feature (labels, Blogger calls it). Overall, it's much easier to tweak the sidebar in Beta.

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Thanks for the review. I have been putting off purchasing this for a while.

Jebb said...

I think you'll like it. I was skeptical, also, but, while there's something for everybody to dislike here, there's plenty to like. I can't stop listening to Rufus Wainwright doing "Casanova in Hell."

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Jebb, thanks.

The new DVD 'A Life In Pop' is in the shops now. Now, that Pet Shop Boys documentary looks extremely intriguing with footage from their first TV performance, eight videos, interviews, etc. TEMPTING!