Following on from the disappointment I felt over Winner, I expected much more from the B-sides. Winner felt so characterless that I couldn’t believe it was actually a Pet Shop Boys song so I hoped that they would redeem themselves with its three B-sides. I have to say that from the two different sets of 30 second samples that have leaked for each B-side my initial fears about the album have been eradicated and it looks like Winner was just a blip. I obviously can’t post at great deal on three songs when I’ve only heard aproximentally a minute of each so for now these are just initial sets of thoughts on each
A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi.
I’d initially hoped (and predicted really) that Elysium’s lead single would be a very energetic and uptempo dance track, alias that didn’t quite work out. With a very slow taster track and a mid-tempo lead single I felt that one of the B-sides simply had to be much more dance floor oriented. A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi most certainly fits that bill! The track sounds incredibly catchy with a really infectious hook, it was written in 2007 initially and worked on again during Yes sessions. Much like their Yes album, its accessible but still undeniably Pet Shop Boys. I really struggle to make out the lyrics of the track though, particularly in the second sample. For now though, this sounds like its going to go right up there with Minimal (in this fan’s opinions at least) as being one of their best modern day dance tracks!
The Way Through The Woods
The next B-side is a much more experimental track. It’s actually an adaptation of the poem The Way Through the Woods which was written by Rudyard Kipling (author of The Jungle Book). This one originated during the Elysium sessions in LA. I have to say, if the production on Elysium is as good as the production here then working with Andrew Dawson was an inspired choice! The first 30 second sample I heard was purely instrumental and I loved the melody of it, it very much fitted the poem with the bird singing effects and the like. The music reminds me of something you’d get on their ballet soundtrack, The Most Incredible Thing which I think is a definite good thing as I really enjoyed the soundtrack. In the second sample you can get a much better sense of the track though as some of the vocals are in it, and it still sounds like a really interesting track, the sample cuts though just as it seems to get really going, the backing vocals sounded brilliant and then it cuts. Never the less, I read that the poem is essentially about the declining influence of religion, so it will be interesting to see what motivated them to re-adapt it!
I Started A Joke
The last one is a cover version of a Bee Gee’s song in tribute to Robin Gibb, who died earlier this year. I’ve always said that they have this brilliant ability of covering a song and making it sound like they originally done it, and I Starrted A Joke is maybe the finiest example of that. Not long after the B-sides were titled a friend showed me a link of Robin Gibb performing the song (which was beautiful) and its just the sort of song you could imagine them covering. It sounds like something you’d get on Release or Fundamental, but its a beautiful sounding ballad judging by the two samples. I have to give serious credit to Neil for the vocals here, even the two samples seem to suggest that this one of the best vocal performances he’s ever given. On that particular note, I think his voice maybe the best its ever been at the moment, as he sounded particularly good at the Wimbledon performance too. It’ll be interesting to see where they originally only going to do The Way Through The Woods and A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi as B-sides but then following Robins death add in an extra tribute B-side, or did they substitute I Started A Joke with something else, perhaps even they were planning this cover version all along?
All in all these are shaping up to be three brilliant B-sides and very possibly one of the best overall sets of B-sides that they’ve done! I think they’ve summed themselves up brilliantly with these three tracks: an energetic dance track, a more experimental piece and a lovely sounding ballad. Honestly, I think there’s something for everyone here. Those who were worried for Elysium on the basis of Winner need not worry I don’t think as these B-sides prove they’re still as creative as ever!