Monday, December 12, 2011

11. Pet Shop Boys, "Left to My Own Devices" (1988)


Here we have the Pet Shop Boys' Phil Spector confectionery moment nonpareil: a brilliant "little symphony for the kids"—more accurately, perhaps, a little opera for the kids. It goes on over eight minutes in the full album version (and it's likely there are even longer mixes of it out there), riding the crests and troughs of its waves of energy with a cool that is like nothing so much as surfers and skiers in recreational promotional documentaries. Nowhere is Neil Tennant more deliberate about the way he proceeds, and nowhere is he more droll or funnier, as Chris Lowe's glittering gem setting builds over and over again to its orchestral heads of steam: "When I get home, it's late at night / I pour a drink and watch the fight" ... "I don't like to compete, or talk street, street, street" ... "Maybe if you're with me we'll do some shopping." The psychic center is located in this verse: "I was faced with a choice at a difficult age / Would I write a book? Or should I take to the stage? / But in the back of my head I heard distant feet / Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat." The groove, of course, is whomping and omnipresent and irresistible and it ends so soon the only way you know it's eight minutes is by checking the time again. I can tell you from personal experience that it is actually possible to wear this one out—after more than 20 years, it suffers for me now from some exhaustion. But such is its power that I can hear the pleasure of it in there still the way I once experienced it directly, in memory now, echo-fashion. Even that is worth it, and once in a happy while it all comes rushing back again the way it used to. Stone classic.

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