Neil Tennant from Pet Shop Boys invented the term “imperial period” to describe that time in a major pop star’s career where they are unassailable, making all the right moves at the right time and topping the charts, again and again. He was, of course, talking about his own experiences. With the exception of The Beatles, no band ever manages to maintain their imperial period forever, but that doesn’t mean that their subsequent work is bad, or below par - just that the fickle pop audience has moved on, as they must.
I am an unashamedly vocal fan of Pet Shop Boys. I await each new album with dry-mouthed anticipation. Rarely have they let me down, and I think they have a knack for writing great songs that is almost supernatural. Their imperial period may be over as far as the charts are concerned, but artistically it goes on to this day.
This song, “Luna Park”, is from their 2006 album “Fundamental”. Musically it’s sumptuous, beautifully arranged and effortlessly widescreen (thanks to producer Trevor Horn), but lyrically it’s a damning indictment of the state of Western society, hung up on cheap baubles and the distractions of fast, tacky rides but unable to see the inevitable fall coming, even as it rolls over us like the fall of night.
A stunning piece of work.
You want the best song ever written about sperm? You’ve got it.
I was going to link to the “proper” video for this but it takes 90 seconds to get going, and then a bit more acting stuff at the end. And let’s face it, this song’s well of utter heartbreak is something you want to dive into immediately.
Lykke Li’s first album, “Youth Novels” is something of a curate’s egg, with a couple of utterly fantastic (“Little Bit” and the peerless “Tonight”) songs surrounded by several that aren’t quite as worthy. I suspect Li realised this, because album 2, “Wounded Rhymes”, takes a similar production and sonic approach but with songs co-written with Rick Nowels. That’ll be Rick “Heaven Is A Place On Earth / White Flag / The Power Of Goodbye” Nowels, by the way. And suddenly, it all falls into place.
Frankly, the whole of “Wounded Rhymes” is brilliant but this is the one that should have been a world-eating überhit. The moment when her voice cracks as she sings, “Every night I rant, I plead, I beg him not to go” - oh, my heart.
What a song.
I felt a tingle of pure jealousy when I heard Dubstar’s “Disgraceful” album for the first time back in the mid-1990s.. It felt like they made exactly the sort of album I wanted to do back then, and I was annoyed that I had been beaten to it.
Probably best remembered for “Stars”, that song was only the start of the story. At their most accomplished, Dubstar were a meeting point between ABBA, The Smiths and Pet Shop Boys. Their best songs have lyrics that are angry, melancholy and fatalist all at once.
This, “The Day I See You Again” is particularly grim - the protagonist receives a letter from her ex, and decides to see him once more, and as she thinks ahead to when they meet (“I’ll wear a new dress…wear the earrings that you chose”) she’s in no doubt how the evening will end (“I’ll tell you straight as we undress that / things got better when you left”) before revealing her desperation (“no-one else would have me so / I’ve made this day, of all days / the day I see you again”.)
In short: love is a wonderful thing (terms and conditions apply.)
This is “Imperfect List” by Big Hard Excellent Fish and it features swearing so it’s NSFW.
A friend of mine came to London a couple of years ago and gave me a mix CD called “Cracking Cuts” (the cover was a naked bum!) and this was the first track. I’d heard the name, a long time ago, but had never heard the song. As soon as it started, I was transfixed.
A list of things imperfect (“duh, really?I”) it’s sad (“cancer”…”depression”), funny (“Stock. Aitken. And Waterman”…”tasteless A&R wanker”), angry (“fucking bastard Thatcher”…”Sun newspaper”) and mundane (“mile-long checkout queue”…”red sock in the white washing”.)