Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Remix Dud From Pet Shop Boys: Disco 2 Doesn't Do It For Me!

The Good: One or two creative dance tracks.
The Bad: Short, Largely repetitive sound, Repeats several tracks, Largely indistinct.
The Basics: A surprisingly disappointing mix of remixes that sound very much like regular Pet Shop Boys songs, Disco 2 is unimpressive.

I invariably feel bad when I select an Artist Of The Month and early on in my exploration of their music, I discover an album that is just awful. With the Pet Shop Boys, I was actually quite excited. I was excited because I love their album Actually and I could admire the creativity of their remix album Disco 4. But with Disco 2, Pet Shop Boys present an album that is surprisingly listless and disappointing album which transforms songs originally done by the Pet Shop Boys into uninspired dance tracks that sound virtually identical.

In fact, it is hard to bother with much more analysis of Disco 2: the album is largely dance pop which range from songs which are little more than clips (“Absolutely Fabulous”) to annoyingly repetitive remixes which sound terribly alike one another; there are two remixes of “I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing” (back to back) and three remixes of “Yesterday, When I Was Mad.” Unfortunately, given how short this album is, there is a sense of repetition that the album never fully overcomes. Instead, it is dance song after dance song and the beats sound similar and most of the remixes do not sound distinctive, especially the songs that appear multiple times on the album.

With only twelve tracks occupying less than fifty minutes on the c.d., Disco 2 is one of the least-inspired, least aurally interesting albums credited to the Pet Shop Boys. I write “credited to” because it is hard to call it a Pet Shop Boys album. After all, when the Pet Shop Boys remix works by other artists, as they did on Disco 4. But on Disco 2, other artists and DJs are remixing works written and performed originally by the Pet Shop Boys. Given that there are only eight songs (so much repetition!), the album is hardly a masterwork of creativity. Instead, Pet Shop Boys wrote, originally performed and produced the songs on Disco 2, but each song has been remixed by other artists.

Unfortunately for fans of Pet Shop Boys or of decent music, Disco 2 is unimaginative. The songs lack the sense of narrative many Pet Shop Boys songs possess. So, for example, “Absolutely Fabulous” (both of the Rollo Our Tribe Tongue-In-Cheek remixes) is basically the two title words repeated over and over again with synthesizers backing up Neil Tennant. There’s nothing terribly clever about that and listeners are likely to feel cheated. Similarly, “Liberation” has the title word repeated so many times, the listener forgets what the song is supposed to be liberating the musical protagonist or listener from!

Add to that, the more interesting songs from the sense of lyrics and musical storytelling tend to be truncated. So, for example, “Yesterday, When I Was Mad” is featured with three different mixes on the album, but none of them seem to tell the whole story of the soured relationship that – one assumes – the original mix does. That said, “We All Feel Better In The Dark” is a good Pet Shop Boys song and the “Brothers In Rhythm After Hours Climax” Mix sounds more like a typical Pet Shop Boys song than any form of remix on this album. Indeed, perhaps one of the more than anything else about Disco 2, the real issue for a new listener to the works of the Pet Shop Boys is how none of these songs sound truly audacious or different from the standard works of Pet Shop Boys.

What that means is that all of the songs on Disco 2 sound like very typical songs one might expect to hear at a dance club. The instrumental accompaniment for every song is synthesizer music and while some of the songs have typical epic swells and falls to them that one might expect from the Pet Shop Boys (like “Can You Forgive Her?”), most of them have more sedate tunes that simply provide danceable synth melodies to dance to. In other words, these songs sound like dance music, so how they are remixed to make them MORE like dance music – it’s not like any of the remixes on Disco 2 are taking a dance song and making it into a clever acoustic version that truly does something different with the song – is a bit of a mystery to me. The album is driven by synthesizer music and drum machines.

As one might expect from unimaginative remixes, the drum sounds are all club beats. Yes, they have a primal speed that makes one want to dance, but track after track, that becomes tired and monotonous because there is no variation. By the time one is done with Disco 2 they have the feeling of being trapped in the same dance club for far, far too long.

Ultimately, Disco 2 is disappointing for the monotony and the lack of real originality to the remixes. Those who love the Pet Shop Boys are likely to find these remixes to be not terribly different either from the originals or what they might expect from the Pet Shop Boys or from dance/electronic musical artists. And those who like a variety of music and have no real expectation from Dance music or the Pet Shop Boys will just find it dull.

The least impressive track is “Absolutely Fabulous,” there are no real strong tracks.

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)
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 musical works, please check out my index page!

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

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  1. Hi !

    2/10 you've very generous. This album truly deserves a zero.

    This is what happens when artists surrender complete artistic control to a D.J. that truly doesn't deserve that amount of trust.

    Especially as a PSB fan, it pains me to say this, but this album is really pure rubbish and it really has not a single one redeeming quality. To me, it doesn't even deserve to bear the name Pet Shop Boys on it. Period.

    1. I think 2/10 is the lowest I go for something that is unmemorable or bad in a way that doesn't cause me discomfort or pain to experience. Movies that I loathe that give me a gut-tightening reaction, music that actually sickens me, those are what I try to reserve the below 2s for.

      If this is the one I am thinking of, it miffed me more that it was considered Pet Shop Boys as opposed to the DJ's. This was more like something Moby would do (in concept) take another person's works, remix it entirely and make it his own.

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!