Was It Worth It? (Updated 11 April 2012)

Released in 1991 as part of their first singles collection, Discography, this is actually one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs. It was one of two new tracks on the collection along with DJ Culture,yet it seems to be largely forgotten about. This is mainly due to it having the “honor” of being the first Pet Shop Boys single to not reach the top twenty (with the exception of their two Bobby O produced singles) in their native UK. To be precise it reached #24. This led it to be omitted from PopArt. I can’t understand why this wasn’t a bigger hit if I’m honest, I think its a great song and has a classic house piano line (to be expected considering Brothers In Rhythm are the producers). It really puzzles me when you consider that DJ Culture was a far more cryptic and less commercial sounding song yet reached #11 places higher. The lower position also could be attributed (to an extent at least) to it being released after Discography. Neil has also stated the song is them in full “Scott-Aitken-Waterman mode” because its pretty high energy, but personally I think its more of a house track. Speaking of production, Neil has stated he thinks the production could be seen as cheesy now, and not one of their greatest songs, feeling the acoustic performance in Nightlife Tour worked far better. I prefer it here but that’s just me, its worth noting that I am a fan of house music (and Brothers In Rhythm in general) so I naturally prefer it here. Lyrically, the song is about Neil starting a relationship, and you could argue that its his coming out song possibly “I reserve the right to live my life this way…”. A small element of the song though originated in 1980 before Neil and Chris met. In a rough acoustic demo Neil recorded called “The Man on the Television” there’s parts in the lyrics were questions like “What? Who?” are stated in various responses to the lyrics. Whether or not that’s just a coincidence though is anyone’s guess. This call and response is found in Was It Worth It during the parts that begin “I reserve the right to live…” The song I think serves as good stepping stone from Behavior to Very, as it still sounds reflective to me but it also combines that with a much more instrumented dance sound that Very would develop even further. Criminally overlooked! 

Behaviour (Updated 23rd May 2012)

For me their best album (along with Very), 1990’s Behaviour is the first really stark change in Pet Shop Boys sound, as the boys took a much more mellow approach to this one. Something further emphasized by its placement between two of their most club oriented albums – Introspective and Very. Despite this, its one of their most critically popular albums, even though its commercially not their most successful. By their own admission, they were seen as an anti-rock group who had vowed to never throw guitars into the mix, however guitars were a feature on this record. They collaborate with Johnny Marr from the Smiths on My October Symphony and This Must Be The Place for instance. Also, gone was the high energy dance beats found on the likes of Its A Sin, and a more reflective tone is implored here. Personally, I can’t really see why they didn’t leave the title of Introspective for this album as I think we can safely say that this is their most personal record to date. Some of the songs are autobiographical (Being Boring, This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave for instance), based on a true story (So Hard), or their opinions on something (How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously).

As mentioned earlier, the album was the first to utilize guitars, I do think however that in comparision to 2002’s Release the amount of guitar playing here isn’t that much at all, because the album is still entirely electronic driven more or less, with the guitar parts just being slight solo parts here and there. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though, and at the time it would have been a far bigger shock. Having said that, Pet Shop Boys weren’t exactly electronic purists prior to this album, after all they did have orchestral arrangements on Left To My Own Devices for instance.

The album itself was produced by Harold Faltymer, who was chosen for his specialist knowledge in analogue synths after Pet Shop Boys decided to adopt a more analogue sounding approach on their next album. What I find particularly interesting though was that originally it seems the album could have sounded much different. Neil had originally intended for Miserbalism, We All Feel Better In and Bet She’s Not Your Girlfriend to be on the album and presumably, have a sound that was more akin to So Hard. However Chris didn’t agree, and as such the album didn’t follow that route and the afformationed three songs became B-sides instead. Whilst I really like all three songs, I have to agree with Chris in this case, the eventual sound they went for sounds much better I think.

Musically, the album is as strong as ever, with some particularly beautiful melodic moments (Johnny Marrs guitar playing on This Must Be The Place, the string ending to My October Symphony for instance) however were the album really shines is in the lyrics. I do adore Neil’s songwriting in general, but here I think its probably at its best. Only The Wind, which is about domestic abuse but from the perspective of the person actually committing the violence is one of the most chilling songs I have ever heard. I love this album mainly because I think its the first one were his lyrics really shine through (I think sometimes that because of their more commercial sounding dance tracks people do tend to overlook Neil’s very talented ability as a songwriter.)

I think its possibly their most important record in a way. The album shows their ability to create strong melodies and captivating songs without the need to resort to euphoric dance tracks. The album I think shows off their ability as brilliant musicians, not just an average group that can create a floorfiller but not much else. It was their first big change in sound, and one that I feel shows off their ability to adapt to different styles but still make good music and retain a core sound.

However, it does feature quite heavily on slow songs, so it isn’t one that I would recommend for new Pet Shop Boys fans who are just discovering them. I will admit, this album didn’t grab me at all when I first heard it as it’s much more mellow, but persevere and you’ll be rewarded with some of their best work. Its possibly their most popular album, and in my opinion it demonstrates perfectly their abilty to create brilliant songs and that they are not a one trick pony. Not only my favourite Pet Shop Boys album, but probably in my top 5 of all time, its a masterpiece!

Top Tracks:
  • My October Symphony
  • The End Of The World
  • This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave