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The Boys are Back in Town

2009-07-07 15:09
Pet Shop Boys Interview
Your tenth studio album is Called 'Yes'. Why?
Neil Tennant:
Well, it's one of our Pet Shop Boys jokey titles like, I mean, it's pathetic really but, if you go in and ask for this you could say, "Yes, Pet Shop Boys." Also it sounds, I think the record has quite sort of an up tone overall, not totally, but quite a lot of it does and also it sounds like a pop word and also I think it comes from the Yoko Ono thing, you know, her exhibition, John Lennon walks up the stepladder, gets the magnifying glass and reads the piece of paper hanging there and it says, "Yes" and it's something, I've always been slightly impressed by that.
Chris Lowe: Our natural instinct would have been for it to actually say, "No". (Laughter)

2009 is another big year for the Pets. There's the new CD of course, but in February you received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Brits. Wow!
Neil: The Brits! It had been mentioned to us a few times in the past that our name was going to go up for The Brits Outstanding Contribution award. I was pleased; you know, like a lot of artistes, we have a slightly funny relationship with the idea of awards ceremonies because, you know, I think there's something slightly arbitrary about them but I thought it was nice, that you think of the Outstanding Contribution Award at the Brits as being a sort of a rock thing and I thought it was nice it was going to something very overtly pop for a change. It is quite nice because 2009 is actually 25 years since we first released a record, the first version of "West End Girls", so that sort of made things seem appropriate.
Chris: I mean, if you're going to get an award it’s a good one to get. Yeah, I don't really approve of awards. It's a bit like school, you know, prize-giving. I don't really approve of that either.
Neil: I think it's nice of the music industry to have given it to us. I was actually quite surprised.

Your album was produced with the (many) hands of production house Xenomania on the steering wheel. Brian Higgins, Miranda Cooper and their staff are a bit more associated with pure pop outfits like Girls Aloud and Sugababes. Why plump for them?
Chris: Well, actually, Neil introduced me to their productions through Girls Aloud because Neil really liked "Biology" (the Girls Aloud single) and then I listened to them and just thought, "Wow, really good pop productions, really good sounds, very fresh sounding." We'd already thought of working with them on the last album (Fundamental) but New Order had kind of got there first and we thought we couldn't appear to copy them so that's why it's happened with this album. Which is quite good really because it coincides with us writing more poppy songs.
Neil: On the last album we worked with Trevor Horn because we wrote quite a few songs we thought were epic-sounding. This album the songs seemed to be much more sort of poppy and so it seemed like a great idea to go with the best pop producers there are at the moment.

Did their style of working suit you?
Chris: It's quite an interesting way of working because we would tend to have one melody, which went with one piece of music or some chord change, whereas they wouldn't just have the one, they would have several and then they would see if it worked on a different bit on a different song. It’s a far more fluid way of writing.

Finally, there are number of tracks with that fave 127/129 Eruo beat on. But there some odder tracks as well. How do you decide which tracks go where on the album? And come to that, who decides?

Neil: Well, we all had different ideas for a sequence. We sort of came up with a compromise.
Chris Lowe: It’s so easy to do now with i-tunes. In the old days, you know, you kind of had to kind of imagine what they were all going to be like.
Neil: And make a cassette! (laughs).

Listen to their track-by-track guide to Yes
'Love Etc.' is the first single - how did that come about? (1:08) Listen
'Love Etc.' has this rather roughhouse chant on it - "Don't Have To Be" - almost an echo of Chumbawamba's 'I Get Knocked Down'. Slightly out of the way for The Pets, Neil? (2:00) Listen
Track Number Two, 'All Over The World', has a line from The Tchaikovsky 'Nutcracker' Ballet Music, possibly better known as 'Nut Rocker', by B Bumble and The Stingers. Can't help asking, why, Chris? (1:57) Listen
Track Three, Chris. 'Beautiful People'. (1:52) Listen
And this track, along with a few others, features the Manchester Guitar Hero, Johnny Marr... (0:22) Listen
'Did You See Me Coming?' the next track, has (like all the songs on the album) some great Tennant lyrics. One of the best is... Neil, you tell us. (2:31) Listen
Next up is 'Vulnerable'. Is  this about you Neil, or is this you 'being' another character? (0:32) Listen
Next Track Is 'More Than A Dream'. How did this one come together? (2:31) Listen
Chris, 'Building A Wall' is next, which also features (Ex-Smiths, Electronic, and current Modest Mouse) guitar hero Johnny Marr. Now, you presumably only get him for a day or two. How do you decide which tracks you want him to play on? (3:07) Listen
Neil, 'King Of Rome', the eighth track, is absolutely beautiful, sad and romantic. Listen(2:47)
'Pandemonium' Is The Next Track, A Song About The Attraction Of Danger. There's an interesting story about how it was Written. Neil? (1:05) Listen
The 'Way It Used To Be' is the tenth track. Now that's such a Neil Tennant title! (2:14) Listen
And at the end of the album we get 'Legacy', a song it's actually quite difficult to say 'I Understand That' about. Any clues, Neil? (2:08) Listen

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe from British synth-pop pioneers the Pet Shop Boys discuss their first 25 years in pop and give us a track-by-track guide to their brand new album, Yes.
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