Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Click Here Shop Kindle Amazon Music Unlimited for Family Shop now Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
Price:£12.87+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

VINE VOICEon 11 February 2012
The Pet Shop Boys are nothing if not consistent. As most fans will already know (and previous reviewers have already remarked) their B-sides are as good as their A-sides - a lot of them are discarded album tracks which see the band only marginally, if at all, more camp/experimental/humorous than we might ordinarily expect to find them.

Whilst I must admit I am more of a fan of the Pet Shop Boys' earlier work, I might be so bold as to venture that "Format" is an even stronger collection than their previous B-sides compilation Alternative. "Sexy Northerner" and "In Private" are worth the price of admission alone.

As ever, the collection is immaculately presented: 2CDs in cardboard slipcases with a booklet packaged in a thick card box (although, note to anyone reading this in future - PSB releases do tend to revert to jewel cases after a while). The booklet usefully contains the boys' (as interviewed by Jon Savage) comments on each and every track.

My only complaint would be that their awesome cover of Coldplay's Viva La Vida (from 2009's Christmas - now out of print) is not included - I suspect that may be a format limitation issue as both CD's are a 78 minute run-time). Nevertheless "Format" is a comprehensive and entertaining package.
0Comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon 17 February 2012
If we're being totally honest about the music business there are few bands who could ever truly release an "essential" greatest hits package. There's even less who could rattle up a two cd set of b-sides. Rarer still is the band who could rattle up a two-disc greatest hits packed with 35 UK top 20 hits and TWO great compilations of completely different b-sides/extra tracks.

The times have changed since Alternative, Pet Shop Boys' first collection of b-sides. B-Sides were in their latter years back in 1995 when we got Alternative and yet the onslaught of "digital" singles means that "extra" tracks are now more in vogue than they've ever been. Such is the work ethic and quality of Messrs Tennant & Lowe it never seems to be a chore for them to come up with quality "extra" tracks that have always seemed to be a cut above the "throwaway" ditties that can make up a lot of band's extra efforts (even if the days of PSB tailoring b-sides to particular singles are also long gone).

If there's less "experimentation" on Format than there was on Alternative it's perhaps understandable yet the chronological nature of the release means you can trace a number of "pop phases" through these tracks (as the Boys themselves have acknowledged) as they've never been shy to express their influences nor have a crack at what the sound of the times is.

When Format is good, it's so good you wonder why certain songs didn't at least make it onto albums. Indeed there are some, such as the Johnny Marr featuring I Didn't Get Where I Am Today, that simply scream out "hit-single". There are also a number of what I would term "essential" PSB tracks that might not have had the "hit potential" but remain up there with their best works. I'm thinking of the likes of The Truck Driver & His Mate (a wonderfully witty and sly take on the nighttime adventures of said truck driver, which was their attempt at an "Oasis sound"), Sexy Northener (a pulsating dance driven rhythm allied with some of Tennant's brilliant eye - or eye - for observation) and Blue on Blue (a sort of electro-clash song that would no doubt have been praised to the hilt if some young, "bedroom genius" came up with it). Then there's the likes of Party Song which, quite amazingly, started life off as an attempted cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit (you'll think not at first, but listen...you'll pick it up).

Comparing it to Alternative there's probably a few more tracks on here that don't hit the mark and there's probably a bit less that makes you sit up and think "how on earth wasn't this a single?". However in general it shows you that whilst their critical reception may have ebbed and flowed over the thirteen years of this compilation (1996-2009) they've rarely stopped producing quality pop tunes.
0Comment| 12 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The Pet Shop Boys have long been known as much for the quality of the B-sides to the singles they release as for the A-sides. The magnificent Alternative paid testament to the fact when it was released in the late 90s, whilst sundry other compilations and remix albums have included great songs that were never on albums or released as singles. This double album certainly keeps up the quality levels, with 38 outstanding tracks, some of which will only be familiar to diehard fans, but many of which will stir memories of the past fifteen years or so of PSB sounds.
Standout tracks for me include the pulsating 'The Truck Driver and His Mate', with all Tennant & Lowe's trademark irony wrapped-up in the lyrics, anthemic 'The Boy Who Couldn't Keep His Clothes On', and updated version of former Clothes Show theme 'In the Night'. Elton John even appears on a version of the hit single 'In Private', originally written for and performed by the late great Dusty Springfield, whilst 'Blue on Blue' is surely the single that never was, and the brilliant cover of a homage written by 'My Robot Friend and recorded by Robbie Williams on his 'Rudebox' album, 'We're the Pet Shop Boys', provides yet more quality.
A great album, packed to the gills with original electronic pop, and a reminder of why the boys continue to endure, thirty years after that fateful meeting on Kings Road...
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 13 February 2012
Although I've always loved the Pet Shop Boys and have all their albums, I've never been enough of a fan to buy all the singles so I appreciate these B-sides compilations.

Seventeen years on, 'Format' is the follow-up to the brilliant Alternative and although of comparable quality is a very different collection. What I enjoyed most about 'Alternative' was seeing how Neil and Chris progressed musically. It was almost like hearing them become the Pet Shop Boys, so by the time of the last track on the second CD they have arrived at their unique sound.

There's less development in 'Format' because that sound has been established. To that extent this new collection is less of a journey than a series of forays from an established point, so there are some real oddities, tracks that sound more experimental than anything you'd get on an album, for example 'Disco Potential' or 'The Former Enfant Terrible' (great title even if the song doesn't quite work). There are also some ridiculously camp songs too, 'Between Two Islands' and some unexpected instrumentals.

This means the album is a bit patchy and I can see certain songs being permanently skipped over. What remains (and it is the majority) is just wonderful and cover the complete soundscape of the PSB. There are the thumping dance numbers, 'Resurrectionist' or 'Blue on Blue' as well the quieter, more thoughtful and intimate tracks (the closest PSB come to ballads) such as 'The Calm before the Storm' a short, elegiac gem. There are also some unexpectedly rocky numbers, 'I didn't get where I am today', for example, and I was glad to see 7" versions of 'Discoteca' and 'No Time for Tears'.

My only slight disappointment is a lack of true 'signature' PSB tracks, those songs that combine relentless disco beats with melancholic orchestral arrangements... but because this is a B-side collection (i.e. material that didn't make it on to the albums) that may not be a surprise.

Finally no review could omit saying something about the packaging. As always with a PSB release it's as good as the music with a beautiful box, great cover design, two separate wallets for each CD and a fascinating booklet that adds more detail and explanation about the songs. (Shame there's no photo of 'The Boys'). Indeed so consistently good is PSB packaging I can never imagine buying one of their albums on digital download.

Non-PSB fans probably won't be moved by this collection, but if you like them this is an essential purchase. It only goes up to 2009... so let's hope that means a third B-side collection will be released one day. I just hope we don't have to wait as long as we did after 'Alternative'.
0Comment| 18 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 7 February 2012
From 1996's "Bilingual" to 2009's "Yes", the PSBs have continued to release a plethora of bonus and non-album tracks with every release and FORMAT does an excellent job of chronologically documenting these. Here, you will find the PSBs at their experimental best, ranging from jungle, latino and electronica to rabid pop and all-out rock. There are too many to review individually, but highlights on the album for me include the guitar-driven "I didn't get where I am today" which could easily have been a successful single and is remininiscent of Beautiful People from "Yes". Johnny Marr's trademark plucking of a Beatles-esque riff under an uplifting melody make it a crime that this song was consigned to B-side status. The Nirvana-inspired "Party Song" is another that would make many of today's young upstarts green with envy that 2 men in their 50s can produce such relevant, vibrant, colourful yet challenging pop after approaching 30 years in the business. Tennant sings with a sneer only Shaun Ryder could rival over an electronic riff which owes more than a nod to "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Sheer brilliance. One other than merits a mention is the strangely disturbing "Gin and Jag" which explores the dark side of the internet. The threatening lyrics match perfectly with the danger-tinged harmonies employed by Tennant.
Overall, a wonderous piece of work, which flows, on the whole, with a surprising underlying consistency, despite the changing styles throughout the 38 songs and 13 years spanned. Ideal for a long car journey, at least until the promised 2012 album of brand new material is released.
11 Comment| 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 February 2012
Just think: how many bands do you know who can afford a quadruple album of essential B-sides?

"Format" arrives in a Mark Farrow-tastic box with thirty-eight tracks and a booklet where Jon Savage interviews Neil and Chris about the dark side of the single. Needless to say, they once again turn out to be The Wittiest Couple In Pop, no contest.

As for the music: this compilation holds together very well. even if it spans nearly two decades and various genres. We get disco, ballads, techno stomps, rocky bops and a wondrous cover in the form of "We're The Pet Shop Boys", the ultimate meta-pop song that was written by My Robot Friend and later sadly mauled by one R. Williams.

It does not end here: these songs also sparkle lyrically, brimming with a variety of themes that are presented with heartfelt, surgical precision. One simply cannot listen to the PSB without thinking of literature; E. M.Forster and Alan Hollinghurst, for instance, keep coming to mind. Mr Tennant's tone and narrative slant are up there, dispensing acute social commentary and poignant stories at every turn.

"Format" is therefore a further, pristine addition to the already glorious PSB canon.

These northeners really have a way with words and music. How do they do it?
0Comment| 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 March 2012
"Format" is a must for any PSB fan. With 38 very rare tracks on two discs it is also a great deal. PSB B-sides are an eclectic mix of electronic, House, Tecno and even some Rockish tracks. The band tends to be a little more experimental with their non album tracks and you will get some very nice surprises here. In fact some of these songs are so good you will wonder why they didn't make it onto the album. I like most of these tracks, some of the standouts are "Always"', "After the Event", "Transparent", "Delusions of grandeur ", "Searching for the face of Jesus"( it's about Elvis, believe it or not) and "The Resurrectionist". That last one is about grave robers from the late 1800s who sold bodies to medical schools that used them to teach students anatomy!
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 June 2012
Fans of Pet Shop Boys will love some of the less popular tracks on this CD. Even if you're not a fan, but love electronic music, this is worth checking out. CD one (1996-2002) has more of the "classic" PSB sound many will recognize. There's an update of "Discoteca" that's a variation of the original track from Bilingual and my personal fav "Sexy Northerner".
Several tracks on the second CD (2002-2009) are a bit more melancholy, but Neil Tennant's vocals shine in piano-driven tracks like "No Time for Tears" and "Friendly Fire". The more upbeat "Nightlife" has an 80's disco feel and "Party Song" will get any party started.

I didn't love every track, but it was definitely worth shipping across the pond for this American.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 25 February 2012
The Pet Shop Boys have always intended their every single release to be worth it for their fans and they have always put valuable bonus tracks on the different formats of their singles, either unavailable new songs or remixes. These B-side songs have always been the main reason for me to buy their every new single althought I already had it on the mother album CD. They first put these less known songs in light in 1995 with the 2CD compilation Alternative, which covered the 1985 to 1995 era, and now is the time for the second B-side compilation of theirs, called Format, covering the following years (1996 to 2009) of B-side songs. Displayed in a limited edition box with 2 cardboard CD outlets and full booklet with their comments on each song via an interview with Jon Savage, it is a must-have for every PSB fan like me, but maybe not a release that will be massively bought...

With over 2 hours and 36 minutes of PSB music compiled, Format fits the bill completely but I can't help but regret there wasn't more room for the songs that weren't included and for the following ones :
My girl (a Madness cover) and Viva la vida/Domino dancing were B-sides to their 2009 Christmas EP release recycling their seasonal song It doesn't often snow at Christmas.
And I don't forget Glad all over and I cried for us, bot B-sides to Together, the single off their latest compilation album Ultimate, from 2010... Will there ever be enough material for a third B-side compilation from the Pet Shop Boys that will be starting with these ? I hope so, but I deeply know the best years of their career are behind us... I only wish they could write/produced more for others... I would so love to see them collaborate with Will Young on his next album for example !
But adding this Format CD box next to my already huge PSB CDs collection is a satisfying act in itself, something to help me wait for their next proper studio album... soon, I hope so

full review on my blog : [...]
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 7 July 2012
I love this cd from the Pet Shop Boys
It is amazing that this is a 2 CD set!! and it only contains B-sides
It really shows just how prolific the Pet Shop Boys are
My favorite song on this album and also my favorite Pet Shop Boys song is Sexy Northerner
I cant Wait until their next album in september
The only down side is i had to purchase this album from amazon UK since it was not offered for sale in the U.S.
That is a mystery to me
Go out and buy this album you will not be disappointed
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)