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Pet Shop Boys, Phenomenal
on 23 February 2013
About 18 months after their LP debut "Please", Pet Shop Boys were back with an album that is a classic to this day. "Actually" (released in September 1987) shows still the same amazing ability of the Boys at capturing the melodic essence of their time (a bit like "Please") but this time they can rely on higher production values. Julian Mendelsohn has replaced Stephen Hague as producer on most of the tracks in the album and you can feel it through a somewhat "grander" style (the intro to "One more chance" for example). Angelo Badalementi (of "Twin Peaks" fame) has joined for the beautiful "It couldn't happen here" while the Boys managed to put Dusty Springfield out of retirement for the magical "What have I done to deserve this"?.
But bar these "stylish" considerations what counts is the overall quality of the album. The dance tracks remain as inspirational as ever, like "One more chance", "Shopping", "It's a sin" or "Heart". But the ballads are absolutely beautiful, enhanced by the lyrics and Neil's beautiful, melancholic voice ("King's Cross", "Rent"). "What have I done to deserve this" in "Actually" is the spot-on counterpart to "Opportunities" in "Please". Pet Shop Boys also show, even if momentarily, their willingness to expand their musical universe and show vast ambitions in melody, orchestration and style - with "It couldn't happen here". In my humble opinion, "It couldn't happen here" is one of their best-ever, most poignant tracks. So for all these marvels, one has to suffer 4'45 in front of the pathetic "Hit music" but that's not very long, all things considered...