Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Disco, The First Pet Shop Boys Remix Album Is More Average Than Bad.

The Good: Fun/interesting mixes, Good dance music.
The Bad: Short, Repetitive.
The Basics: A mediocre dance remix album of six of the earliest Pet Shop Boys songs, Disco is a bit of a letdown, though it is easy to listen to.

As I listened to new (to me) works by the Pet Shop Boys (my July Artist Of The Month), I was actually excited to listen to how they had an effect on pop music. Oddly, the earliest album I was able to get in was their second, Disco. Disco, as the sequels I have already reviewed informed me, are the Pet Shop Boys remix albums. As a result, Disco is hardly exciting to those who own or have the band's first album, Please. All of the songs on Disco are remixes of songs from Please. As such, it is inherently one of their weaker endeavors, but having not heard the album Please, it is hard for me to critique it for that.

I will say that the album sounds like exactly like what one expects from Pet Shop Boys in that the songs are pretty continually dance tracks. The mix is short (hence the very short review) and it has a repetitive quality that makes it ultimately hard to recommend for anything other than background music in a dance bar.

With only six tracks occupying 46:15, Disco is short and has a strangely drawn-out quality. All of the songs were originally written and performed by the Pet Shop Boys and Disco is a collection of the songs remixed, all longer than the originals. Oddly, this is credited as a Pet Shop Boys album, though the band was only involved directly in remixing a single song. Neil Tennant does provide all of the lead vocals.

What makes Disco hard to recommend is that all of the songs have a monotonal, monolithic quality to them. These are all hard dance songs and the drum machines and synthesizers which once might have been audacious are now passe. I can respect that the Pet Shop Boys might have gotten there first, but the instrumentals become somewhat boring because the remixes auditorily bleach out the original flavors and melodies of the songs and replace them with more active, homogenous percussion.

As well, Disco remixes are characterized by a lot of repetition. The remix of "West End Girls" is like many remixes of that song repeating the title words and refrain more than the rest of the song. Only "Love Comes Quickly" sounds like it is a first-run Pet Shop Boys song which is performed without incredible and disappointing repetitions.

Even so, Tennant's voice comes through well on most of the tracks and he performs well in his smooth, tenor vocals that many people know him for. His voice is mechanized in the remix of "Suburbia," but outside that, Tennant's vocals are the most natural thing on the album.

Lyrically, Disco seems to nullify most of the musical storysongs that the original versions likely were. Save "In The Night," which has a musical protagonist and a whole character arc, most of the songs are dulled down to be dance tracks that capitalize on the most popular, most melodic parts of the song. The remix of "Paninaro," for example, just repeats the title word a LOT.

That said, "Opportunities" is left mostly intact in its remix. That song tells the story of two people looking to join forces to make lots of money. Its iconic lines "I've got the brains, you've got the brawn / Let's make lot's of money" ("Opportunities") the song retains much of its original flavor. It is the standout track as a result because it manages to tell most of the dark story of capitalism and corruption that the original did.

Ultimately, Disco is not a horrible album, it is just a tiresome mix of six dance mixes of songs that were already dance to begin with. That lack of ambition in a group as young as Pet Shop Boys was when it was released is disappointing.

For other Pet Shop Boys works, please check out my reviews of:
How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously? (single)
Discography: The Complete Singles
Was It Worth It? (single)
Disco 2
Se A Vida E (single)
I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More (single)
New York City Boy (single)
Pop Art: The Hits
Disco 3
Disco 4


For other c.d. reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |


  1. Hi !

    I often agree with you when it comes to Pet Shop Boys albums, but not this time, I’m sorry.

    You have to keep in mind that Disco was released the same year as their first album. Please was released in march and Disco in november of year 1986. By that time, we, the fans, weren’t already expecting a brand new album from the Pet Shop Boys, so it was really a surprise and a very good one because even though almost all the tracks were known to us, none of them have been released in those mixes before.

    Yes Opportunities, Suburbia, West End Girls and Love Comes Quickly have all been singles before, and they all have been released as maxi singles as well with extended versions but not these ones and when it comes to Love Comes Quickly and West End Girls, the famous remixer Shep Pettibone did an amazing job, completely re-doing the tracks in direct collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys, even adding new lyrics and brand new arrangements. It’s even a strange feeling to me, because I hate these 2 songs, but I love those remixed versions. It’s a matter of taste, I guess.

    As fans, we never really considered it as a 2nd album but more as a gift, especially since it was released just before Christmas and although even In the night had already been released as the b-side of the single Opportunities : this Arthur Baker remix is far better than the clumsy and really unprofessional feel of the original version.

    Then again, in 1986, it was one of the very first remix compilations, years before Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul or even Madonna even thought about making one !

    But you’re right about Paninaro, its repetitive chorus is one of the worst things the Pet Shop Boys have ever made. It was the b-side of the single Suburbia and it should have stay buried there. The only limited interrest this song has to offer, is to show us a first glimpse of how Chris Lowe's voice sound like (if you’re really able to decipher it through all the vocoder effects).

    But I’m not that merciful about all the other releases called Disco ; in fact I find that most of them are pointless (except maybe for Disco 3 which is the only other one with interesting material) but Disco 2 is really just garbage.

    1. Thanks for all the additional history!

      FYI, I just go with what I hear on the album. So, this represents my thoughts and feelings of what I heard when I listened to the album on high rotation in 2010, nothing else.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the extensive comments!