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4.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 13 November 2007
This is one classy, catchy, dancey, trippy (oh yes) and poignant album, yet nobody seems to know it. For me, there is nothing the Beatles did that is as sad and moving as It couldn't happen here, save perhaps Blackbird, but for me the latter gets a bit boring when you've heard it a certain number of times. And great though the Beatles are the elephant in the room that nobody has had the wit to talk about viz their songs is that they're not really that great to do disco moves to. You certainly can with the songs on this album.
This album is like a musical disco opera, starting with a dramatic 12 inch song that invokes the City of London and a debonair and suave young man looking for his lover on a cold and wet evening. It pushes on into the yuppiedom theme, overturning convention with a man singing about how he is grateful that a lover pays his rent and much more subtle and clever social comment in "Shopping" than they manage with their clumsy rants in their sad latter day works. Savour no nonsense catchyness song after song on this effort.
Hit Music has been dismissed as being too 80s. Presumably such dismissers didn't listen to the last one minute and four seconds of the song. What is that? The Pet Shop Boys have invented Lounge Music ten years early. This is dreamy, lie on the floor and bliss-out stuff.
It is probably true that you have to be in touch with your feminine side, or have one, to really appreciate it. Everytime I hear it I hear myself mouthing the words, moving my body and I seem to be leaving my chair and dancing. And I'm doing this years after I first heard it. Perhaps most of the journos responsible for those tedious top 100 album lists are still struggling with feelings because this album never seems to get on their lists. And I'm really not impressed by that ultra dull cliche about the Pet Shop Boys being miserablists or singing in a deadpan and emotionally detached manner, as if they are basically an affected band being very droll. That is an insult to the depth this album has. Almost as sad and deep as It couldn't happen here is King's Cross. It is weary, addictive and very original. If you asked the Pet Shop Boy's today to write a song like anything on this album I really doubt they could do it. They were of a certain age and everything momentarily fell into a very special place.
Probably this album's weakest moment is its most successful, the well known single, It's a sin, which is pretty fine, but for me sinks below this album's overall genius. Much of that genius probably extends a bit beyond the Pets themselves. The drums beats and production on this album are simply unmatched elsewhere in their canon. They actually seem to think about the drum patterns whereas later on in their career they just stick some generic one on and let it plod away. These days the Pet Shop Boys say what they ruddy well like but it don't add up to great art. I much prefer "Turning in my sleep, you call me a fool, to fall in love, is it so uncool?" to... well, just about anything they've written post Very. Certainly, after Neil came out he seemed to change his lyrical style to one stuffed with awful metaphors and though it's good to move on, it's good to still have something to say. But I digress. This is a great, great album. I think.
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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...
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on 20 April 2009
In my opinion this is the Pet Shop Boys' best ever album. I bought it originally on vinyl and thought I had better purchase it on a newer format.

It contains the first song that got me into the Pet Shop Boys, 'It's a Sin', along with lots of other great tracks including 'Rent' and 'Heart'. Even the non-single tracks are brilliant.

I also took the opportunity to update my collection with CD versions of 'Please' and 'Introspective' at the same time. Delivery was swift, and including delivery the three CDs cost under £17 total!

I would recommend Amazon to anyone.
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on 17 January 2012
Pet Shop Reviews Actually. By Richard Alexander Minor
Note that some of my thoughts about song meanings are mentioned here and every effort has been made to try and find the songwriters intentions of what the songs mean also.

Hi guys and girls and welcome the 2nd Ultimate Pet Shop Boy review and today We'll be looking at Actually the second album from the Pet Shop Boys. The version I'll be reviewing is the 2001 re mastered edition Now the first things Ill say is that it features ten album tracks which featured 4 massive Hits and you also get a second disc with remixes and b sides 14 in total. You also get the 36 page interview booklet containing lyrics and interviews about how each song came about. The pictures a lot more filmic and where done just like film stills which builds on their image style. The main album includes What have I done to deserve this with dusty Springfield, Rent and the two number one singles Its a Sin and Heart. This album was released on 1987 with the boys looking to capitalise on their previous success with an album that sounded a lot more fuller and more ambitious then their previous smash. The result was Actually. It's interesting to note that a lot of the songs from actually where written about the same time as the songs from please with what have I done to deserve this written whilst please was being produced but there was no time to contact Dusty to get it on the record as Please was due to be released. The boys hadn't yet toured after the success of the first album so they went back into the studio to make this album

One More chance opens the album starting with thumping drum beats and mysterious synth noises. According to the booklet this was originally recorded with Bobby O and the idea of the song is by being chased by the mafia or some other sinister people. Neil looks to be singing about being in the city in the dead of night looking for someone whilst being on the run. With someone spreading a nasty word and Neil getting the blame. It could very well be that the only one who can clear his name is this person he is searching for. With the chorus seeing Neil begging this person for One more chance tonight. The track really comes alive with the middle 8.. You're so extreme I want to take you home with me is a great line! The person he seeks out is probably very dangerous and this attracts Neil or the protagonist to him or her. The track also has the early trademark car crash noises that were so prominent on Please. From this track you can clearly see that a bigger more melodic Pet Shop Boys sounds is very much in full effect.

What have I done to deserve this was written in conjunction with the great American songwriter Allee Willis who's previous credits include Boogie Wonderland and the theme from friends.
The song Neil describes has a very unusual structure and was written in the manner of a duet. Most noticeably it was mentioned on the 90's radio documentary About that Chris threw a tantrum during the writing session and had to be coaxed back in. After this was accomplished He cheered up because the song started to take shape. Neil and Allee sung the song and the only job now was to decide on who would sing it. Someone in the EMI office suggested Dusty Springfield. It took ages to track her down and after several toeing and froe ing she came over and did the track with Neil.
Dusty said in an interview that she was aware of the Pet Shop Boys because she nearly had an accident on the freeway when West End Girls came on the radio. Apparently songs have that effect on her in that she has to concentrate on the song. Whilst soul searching about whether or not she would ever sing again she received a message from her manager saying that the boys wanted to work with her. She answered yes and the rest and flew over to do the track.
"What do you want me to sound like she asked" To which Both Neil and Chris replied
"Like Dusty Spring field pleased. Dusty couldn't work out what they wanted from her in terms of lyrical style. Also she recorded the track very slowly vocally arranging the words in her head so she could reproduce what was needed. A slow process but one that was well worth it. The song is about two lovers in show business who have split up with Neil and Dusty going back and forth. The Bridge has Neil voicing his dismay "What have I done to deserve this". Then Dusty's powerful voice soars in with the since you went away I've been hanging around. They both harmonise with 2how am I going to get through" Towards the end of the track the lovers come to the realisation that they are still in love not wishing to fight or go to hell and back every night believing that they themselves can come to a compromise. This got to number two in the charts and also resurrected Dustys career. One of the best tracks on the album.

Next up is Shopping which came about because the boys loved to go shopping apparently. They would sing were S h o p p i n g. Neil had this idea that none had ever written a song about shopping before. The song is much more than simply nipping down to your local supermarket. It's really a putting a glamorous spin on nationalising industries as if it's something you would do for fun. It mentions lines like "were buying and selling your history" and "I heard it in the house of commons everything's for sale" . In fact it's a very original song which also highlights capitalism "There's a big bang in the city were all on the make meaning that there's money to be made from this kind of venture. In fact the tracks deep bass line compliments the track and is the driving force. with the synth sounds coming in on the top.
This was performed on their 1989 tour and 2006 Fundamental tour. My favourite track on the album

Rent in my opinion one of the most poignant and beautiful love songs they have ever written. It tells the story from the point of view of a kept women or man who's life style is funded by their lover who has a family and is having an affair with them. The idea is that the lover has been seeing the lover for quite a while and buys expensive items for them and yes pays their rent. The person feels trapped and seems to be quite dependant on the lover with the line "you buy whatever I need". This person wants for nothing and the line "and look at the two of us the currency we've spent. Neil would later explain on the BBC programme secrets of the pop song that this meant the time that they have spent together. The song is very much sad and you really feel for this person who although might want to get away can't because they love the idea of being kept and being this secret, yet there's this intense longing for a better life. As the person describes "I'm your puppet" I love it. Even though the person has hopes dreams and aspirations their rent is paid and this maintains the lifestyle they have indeed become accustomed too. A beautiful track that is slightly different from the single version but still just as brilliant. This went Top 10 in the UK charts making it to number 8 according to Wikipedia.
Hit music is next and immediately starts up with what sounds like a Stock Aitkin and Waterman backing track which wouldn't be out of place on a Rick Astley or Bananarama record. At first listen it sounds too commercial and throw away. I didn't like this track at first and thought it was too simple however research about the actual song meaning changed my mind. The song is meant to sound commercial to say Pop music is way to commercial. The song is very upbeat in tempo and at first listen seems that Neil is singing about how elated he is singing and dancing to hit music on the radio and in the clubs. However Neil state that it is the fact that Pop music is used just for the sake it and that hit music has become something rather throw away and disposable to the ear. Neil says that it is about Aids "Live a lie dance together all night long to your favourite song, Live and die its all that we know I need a friend at the journeys end." One might guess with this new revelation of the song that perhaps the person might themselves be dying and so the only thing to do is to go out and dance pretending everything's alright.

It couldn't happen here came about after contacting Ennio MorriCone to do some work on the track Jealousy they had written. He didn't want to it but did send them a song in Italian for them saying he would write a song with them. Neil and Chris then contacted Angelo Badalamenti to do the track. However the arrangement of the song needed an orchestra which subsequently had not been booked. Luckily session musician Blue Weaver programmed the Fairlight the main instrument that the boys used to recreate the sounds they required. The track itself was enhanced and almost sinister in its final conception. The song is about aids and how prominent it had been in America with the idea that it couldn't happen in England. It is very slow and haunting and seems almost to be a reflective idea of someone looking back on their youth. One of Neil's friends had died of aids so it was quite a surprise. The song looks at young gay people just going about their lives not expecting this to happen whilst shrugging off criticism from people. It's an epic of a track "I may be wrong but I thought we said it couldn't happen here". The song is almost a reminder that tragedy can strike when we least expect it.
The Pet Shop Boys were hoisted to the top of the charts with the four on the floor stomper Its a sin. It works on so many levels. Firstly its primarily an epic dance record secondly its a song about Catholicism and questions its very nature. It points out how everything is a sin and in the middle of the song Neil is questioning God . "Father forgive me I tried not to do it". Neil is reflecting on his life talking about everything he does, has done and will ever do is in the eyes of others a sin. This was originally written in Ray Roberts studios in Camden town. Chris in fact had played some very religious chords. Neil's ears pricked up and started singing "It's a sin" . In order to add more lyrics Neil dove into the very idea of what a sin is as he comes from a Catholic background himself. The 20 seconds and counting at the beginning is sampled from the Apollo space mission. It's almost as though its counting down to something. Neil confesses his sins and then at the end there's a resounding zero as if its the end. One of the best tracks on the album very big sounding .

I want to wake up is a another love song. Neil realises how much in love is with someone and realises that love in itself it such a powerful almost like a dream. In fact he wants this feeling so much that he literally wants to wake with this person who occupies his thoughts and indeed his dreams.
The track came about after a solo recording with Chris who had recorded this fantastic backing track. Neil heard this and went back to a song he had previously written called "I'd heard what you said" The song references Tainted love and Love is strange. What's interesting is that both songs deal with an interpretation of love and how it's not so clear cut from the outset and can make you feel differently. Its another one with another noticeable deep bass line and you can really feel the longing that is felt for the narrator.

Heart. This was the Pet Shop Boys fourth and final number one in the UK charts(There third being "Always in my Mind") Its a high energy declaration of love. "Everytime I see you something happens to me like a chain reaction between you and me, my heart starts missing a beat". The song is sweet and sincere and the pulse and pounding bass remind you instantly of that feeling of being in love and how that person makes you feel. Interestingly enough this version of the song wasn't the one they released. Shep pettibone whom did many of their remixes mixed Heart added more drums bass a faster tempo and JJ Belles guitar. It's one of their best ever songs and I can't stop playing it. This song was written with the idea that Madonna might sing it. In fact it's not hard to imagine her singing this as her vocal style would have been just as good. The boys however decided to keep it for themselves and it hit the top spot for about three weeks. This song is a shining example that the boys know pop music and were streets ahead in the eighties.

Kings cross is a song about someone arriving at London after running away from home with promise of having your ambitions for filled. However upon arrival at Kings cross prostitution, crime and drugs dominate the area. A lot of the people are waiting for an opportunity but it's never going to realised under the current Government.
In fact people are living way below the breadline and it's a struggle to survive. Despite what you try to do to lesson these efforts by raising awareness words fall on very deaf ears. It talks about people queuing up in line only to feel firm government slapping them hard with a firm hand. However the person overhears that if you wait until tomorrow there's still no way things will change. It's a very sad song again like many of their songs their an intense longing a search for a better way of life. Neil and Chris performed this on the 1989 tour, the Discovery tour in 1994, and on their recent Pandemonium tour. It is sung with pure conviction with a sense that Neil's hopes for a better future and for those on Kings Cross may in fact not be realised.

Disc two contains a mix of Bsides and remixes 14 in total. Shep pettibone features heavily on the remixes. Some noticeable songs are A new life, You know where you went wrong and I want a dog. You also get the Always on my mind extended dance mix. Always on my mind was released as a standalone single so is not on Actually.
Actually is an album that sees the Pet Shop Boys maintain and build upon the success of please and it is done with wit style and a fantastic song writing. It's a highly recommended purchase particularly the two disc special edition.
Actually 5 out of 5.
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on 21 June 2001
This the PSB second album is one that sounds the most dated. This album seems to contain the best and worst of the boys. Its easier for me to mention the worst "Shopping" and "Hit Music" sound very dated and silly, but elsewhere there are great tracks to be found. "One More Chance" is the opener and is one of their best songs with fantastic production. Elsewhere we have "Its a Sin", "what have I done to deserve this?", "Heart", "Kings Cross" and a few more. Again the bonus CD is worth a listen and contains some good remixes and unreleased tracks, but togther with the remastering and packaging this is still an essential purchase!
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on 25 May 2001
My favorite album of Pet Shop Boys. An excellent mixture of situations of that time, united in one of their maximum points of creativity. "It's a sin", What have I done to deserve this?", " Rent ", " Heart ", transformed in classic. Personally I love "It Couldn't Happen Here", with Morricone's collaboration in the composition. Songs and remixes impossible to find at the moment, are included in the CD 2. ¡A collection piece!!
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on 27 August 2009
In particular I want to say that the Pet Shop Boys is one of my favorite groups. Perhaps this is why my ranking more positive.
But for those who are more or far away from this group, I'd say. They should not be seen too seriously, just listen to their music. However, what I would say in particular of their second album, "Actually". Can I just say, bravo. Of course, one of the best in me, their album will remain a "Behaviuor". But this album is also one of their pearls, having inside such hits as "It's asin", "What Have I Done to Deserve this?", "Rent" and the amazing song "Kings Cross". Just the music lovers who like good music and appreciates it, purchase this Excellent album to your collection. I think you will not regret that purchased this album. Thank you.
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on 21 January 2008
Granted, some tracks sound dated today (Shopping, Hit Music) but how many albums of 80's artists had so much powerful singles in them (except maybe for Madonna & Michael Jackson's, hum ?) It's a sin, What have I done to deserve this, Rent, Heart (except that this album version of Heart is rather weak and pale - the beggining of the song is even missing due to a music studio mistake made by one of the boys' engineers but the single version mixed a year later kicked so much more). Even the album tracks I want to wake up, King's Cross & One more night (who should have been a single too) will bring you to your knees. And what is truly exceptionnal is that some B-sides of the singles of that era were as wonderful as these album tracks (I get excited, Do I have to, You know where you went wrong). In one word this album is simply : perfection.
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on 10 April 2013
While some of the songs on this album sound dated ('Shopping' and 'Hit Music'), this, Pet Shop Boys' second album, is still a great testament to just how great songsmiths Lowe and Tennant had become by the time of its release.

From 'One More Chance', the superbly produced opening track, to hit singles 'It's A Sin' and 'What Have I Done To Deserve This' (featuring Dusty Springfield), the album sounds the part of a late Eighties hit album. While these tracks could in some way be described as quintessential Pet Shop Boys, the two marvellous ballads included on the album ('It Couldn't Happen Here' and 'King's Cross') show that there is much more than mere brilliant pop to this duo.

The two duds still detract from the overall feeling of the album, but then again very few albums don't have weak tracks on them. For those interested in Eighties music or intelligent pop music regardsless of the release date, 'Actually' will not disappoint. It remains not only one of the Pet Shop Boys' best album, but indeed one of the best late-Eighites pop albums.
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HALL OF FAMEon 8 September 2003
The Pet Shop Boys made a bit of a splash with their first album Please, and their greatest hit song from that album, West End Girls remains the classic Pet Shop Boys song, but it took Actually to establish the duo as a group with credibility and staying power. With this album, the Pet Shop Boys became one of the major groups of the 1980s.
The songs on this album are ironic, witty, urbane--all things would not normally associate with pop/dance music. And, surprisingly, none of this intellectual content seems to interfere with the beat and bop as crowds bounce around on the dance floor.
The magnum opus of this album is probably the collaborative effort the Pet Shop Boys did with Dusty Springfield, entitled What Have I Done to Deserve This?. Years later, when Bono was told that the Pet Shop Boys were remaking Where the Streets Have No Name into a disco-pop song, his response was 'what have I done to deserve this?' This song showcased Dusty, who had been neglected for years by the music establishment, and brought attention to both Dusty and the Pet Shop Boys as being able to reach just a bit further than anyone had previously realised.
The song It's a Sin was a song very much in tune with the hedonistic, decadent London (and New York/California) nightlife, capturing the bittersweet flavour of life on the wild side.
In all, if you were to have only one Pet Shop Boys album, opt for Discography. However, if you have room in your collection for two, include this one. The minor songs (Rent, which was popular in Europe and Japan but not America; King's Cross; It couldn't happen here) are great and worth a hearing.
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