[sic] Magazine

Pet Shop Boys – Ultimate / Live At The BBC

Didn’t we have a definitive Pet Shop Boys compilation in 2003? And what have they done since then? Two albums, a handful of occasional hits, but no career-definitive huge numbers. One could ask – and quite rightly so – what exactly is the point of this?

In the days when CDs are given away free with newspapers, when an album is now a disposable plastic box parked next to children’s toys in the supermarket, and where you can buy them for less than a microwavable meal, is it any wonder that music revenues are dwindling, and thus, the perceived value of the art has shrunk to next to nothing and a record is just another consumer product? ‘Twas ever thus, admittedly, but more now than ever, a record is just one of millions of things competing for our attentions in the strained marketplace.

Beyond this, and the hollow ring of a third “best of”, this compilation simply presents most of the bands better-known songs in a chronological order, with a grand finale of the new song ‘Together’. It’s a simple hits-and-run release, and on which, to be honest, makes me wonder why this year’s limited-edition single ‘Love Life’ isn’t on it – a token gesture that would have pleased those of us who think a 1,000 only limited 7’ single that is now on Ebay for £70 is a bad idea. So, as a best of compilation, it does the job serviceably, and, at the same time, feels a little cheap and exploitative.

The real meat, and the clear attraction of this is the huge, weighty, and enormous DVD that goes with it: ‘Live At The BBC’, which covers 48 songs, two live performances, and a multitude of TV appearances over the past quarter, century. In no short order, the main live set is this summer’s Glastonbury performance which is a full length, 90 minute revision of the ‘Pandemonium’ set: the band as good as they ever have been, packing in dozens of songs in a concise, efficient, and beautiful arrangement that sees obscure, but brilliant b-sides fold into loved album tracks and greatest hits, in one, undulating texture. Naturally, all the great songs are here. Aside from Glastonbury, there is also a live set filmed for the BBC in 2002 – a tour not otherwise filmed – and the short, half-hour set is a tease of the unusual, bulkier and more powerful sound the band carried at that time. Aside from this, comes every BBC TV appearance (well, almost) from the past quarter century, from such fallen stalwarts as Top of The Pops, and Wogan. (About the only omission is the Glastonbury 2000 TV Broadcast).

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned ‘Always On My Mind’, ‘Go West’, ‘West End Girls’, ‘It’s A Sin’, ‘Can You Forgive Her?’, ‘Love Etc’, ‘I’m With Stupid’… tut, tut. The Pet Shop Boys are not just a great pop group, or great artists, but that rarest of things. They are both. Britain’s finest export?

Pet Shop Boys

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