Friday, December 3, 2010

I never dreamt that I would get to be the creature that I always meant to be.

Okay, since I've taken to raiding YouTube (this stops now!), probably my absolute guiltiest pleasure -- Pet Shop Boys.

I hate the beat-box-driven, post-disco, synthesized, four-in-a-bar bass-drum thump of contemporary music. It sanitizes the sound by eliminating the last trace of danger that you get with a live, human rhythm section. When did we lose the back-beat? Where's Keith Moon when you need him?  (You want to hear drumming? Go back to 1967 and The Who's "I Can See For Miles.")

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe
But you have to admit that PSB anticipated the production and arrangements that now characterize songs by Usher and Pitbull and even Rihanna by a quarter of a century. And the duo easily overcome my aversion to techno ambiance with haunting melodies, witty lyrics ("I've got the brains, you've got the looks -- let's make lots of money!"), art-school stylings, and Neil Tennant's lean but beautiful voice, as reedy and pure and evocative as a Hammond organ. (And the fact that their faces always seemed too ordinary through and under and over the top of those costumes only adds to the irony. Tennant's older than me, with substantially less hair, but he's still getting away with it.)

Last year, they were given the "outstanding contribution to music" Brit award by the British equivalent of the Grammys, the year after Paul McCartney got his, and celebrated in their customary off-kilter, Brit-pop, Brit-art, pop-art style with a medley of great moments, culminating in "West End Girls." (That classic track first appeared in 1984?)

Here's a bit of the show, kicking off with their cover of the Village People's "Go West." And you don't have to wait too long to see a guest appearance by Lady Gaga, substituting for the late Dusty Springfield, and proving that the Lady has the pipes.

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