I first encountered the Pet Shop Boys back in 1986, when I heard “West End Girls” on the radio. From the Please album, I also heard “Suburbia” and “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money).” “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” is definitely my favorite album off of Please.
In 1987, when the Pet Shop Boys released the Actually album, I heard “It’s A Sin” on the radio and saw the video on MTV. I absolutely loved that song, and it still remains one of my all-time favorite Pet Shop Boys songs. There was also “What Have I Done To Deserve This?,” a duet with Dusty Springfield, that I enjoyed a lot from the album. Some of my other favorite songs from Actually are “One More Chance,” “Rent,” “It Couldn’t Happen Here,” and “Heart.” In between the Actually and Introspective albums, the duo released the single for “Always On My Mind,” which was a synthpop cover of an Elvis Presley song. The Pet Shop Boys’ cover really breathed new life into this song.
The Introspective album spawned the successful single, “Domino Dancing“; in fact, this ended up being the last major hit for the duo in America, and it’s also another song by the Pet Shop Boys that I really like. From this album, I also enjoy “Left To My Own Devices” and “It’s Alright,” which is a cover of a song by Sterling Void.
In 1990, the Pet Shop Boys released the Behavior album. Sonically, this album marked the beginning of the duo releasing songs that weren’t quite as dance-friendly as their earlier work. My favorites from this album are “Being Boring,” “How Can You Expect to be Taken Seriously?,” “So Hard,” “The End of the World,” and “Jealousy.”
The Pet Shop released their first greatest hits album in 1991, titled Discography – The Complete Singles Collection. There were three new songs included on this release: “Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You),” “DJ Culture,” and “Was it Worth it?” I liked their version of “Where The Streets Have No Name,” and I also liked “Was it Worth It?”; however, I have never really warmed up to “DJ Culture.”
1993 brought us the release of Very, which, in my opinion, is still the Pet Shop Boys’ strongest album. There are so many strong songs on this album: “Can You Forgive Her?,” “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing,” “Liberation,” “Yesterday When I Was Mad,” “The Theater,” “Young Offender,” “One In A Million,” and their cover of Village People’s “Go West.”
In 1996, the Pet Shop Boys released Bilingual, which was a rather Latin-sounding album. At the time it came out, I was rather disappointed in it, and thought it was one of their weakest albums. While it’s still not among my top albums, I have come to better appreciate this material over the years. My favorite songs on this album include: “Discoteca,” “Single,” “Se A Vida E,” “A Red Letter Day,” “Before,” and “To Step Aside.”
Nightlife was released in 1999, and it was a return to the pre-Bilingual sound of the Pet Shop Boys. My favorites from this album are: “Closer To Heaven,” “I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Anymore,” “Happiness Is An Option,” “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk,” “In Denial” (a duet with Kylie Minogue), and “New York City Boy.”
Release was released in 2002, and it had a more laid-back feel to it than the Pet Shop Boys’ previous albums; sonically, the album focused more on midtempo and ballad material. My favorite songs on the album are “Home and Dry,” “I Get Along,” and “London.” In 2003, the Pet Shop released a second greatest hits album called PopArt, which featured two new songs: “Miracles” and “Flamboyant.” Both of these new songs were very well-done, and are excellent additions to the Pet Shop Boys’ catalog.
2006 saw the release of Fundamental, and my favorite songs from this album are “The Sodom And Gomorrah Show,” “Minimal,” “Numb,” and “I’m With Stupid” (a song poking fun at Tony Blair and George W. Bush). In 2009, the Pet Shop Boys released Yes, and the songs that really stood out to me from this album are “Did You See Me Coming?” and “Pandemonium.” In 2011, the Pet Shop Boys released the music they had composed as the score for a ballet called The Most Incredible Thing, which is based on a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. Some of the music sounds like “typical” ballet music, while some of it sounds more like what a listener would expect from the Pet Shop Boys.
The Pet Shop Boys are definitely one of the big names in the synthpop music scene. After you hear the material they have released over the course of their career, you won’t question why they are still respected so many years later.