Pet Shop Boys, Fundamental (2006): Part 5
I've been very old-fashioned the past four days
, not just because I've been serializing like the Dickens. Despite writing about Fundamental
on various levels -- thinking about its place within the entire Pet Shop Boys oeuvre; as an album; individual songs; a specific line of lyric -- I've always treat it as a cohesive record. In this shuffled iDay-and-Age, of course, that's almost a weird approach. Who listens to -- and indeed, who makes -- albums as
albums anymore? Furthermore, in thinking about Fundamental
this way, I have of course only followed certain narratives, plots, and threads. This album is -- any album would be -- much more.
Here, then, by way of conclusion, are ten more random things about Fundamental
The special edition of the album comes with a bonus CD of remixes called Fundamentalism
, which is kicked off by an exclusive Richard X-produced track called "Fugitive." I'm not that thrilled by the production, frankly, which is a bit pedestrian: the bassline, for example, comes across as just a variation on the one Richard used for his remix of Gwen Stefani's "Cool," which was in turn swiped from Heaven 17's "Let Me Go."
But it's the lyric of the song that has drawn more attention, and justifiably so, since it appears to be written from the point of view of terrorists, or even more specifically, suicide bombers. What fascinates Neil most about the mindsets of such men, as the insistent "you are/were my brother" chorus suggests, is the fraternity on which they depend. In many ways, this is a love song between terrorists. The lyric has a kind of purposeful ambiguity, and in some ways could apply just as much to a pair of gay lovers -- one of whom has died, or is going to die, and the other wishing to follow. So, while a line like "clean, and prepared to be led" could definitely refer to the "ritual cleansing and body-shaving" that the 911 terrorists engaged in, as Wayne Studer suggests
, it could secondarily allude to the way dead bodies are generally prepared for the afterlife. Furthermore, in the breakdown, the Boys, in a slightly self-quoting moment, interpolates a stuttering vocoderized effect, and what it conjures up is the catchy hook of "Heart." Perhaps that's another way the track assumes, through association, the aura of a love song.
This isn't to suggest that "Fugitive" is a snickering track that paints terrorism as secretly homoerotic, nudge nudge wink wink. But I do think that Neil, rather, is intrigued by the continuum -- the homosocial continuum, if you will -- between two same-sex male lovers and two political brothers prepared to die for, and with, each other. "Fugitive," in a sense, is cut from the same cloth as the main disc's "I'm With Stupid" (and Release
's "I Get Along"): except, tellingly, where Neil mocks the Bush-and-Blair relationship, he is here much more circumspect about the love that binds these fugitives. I would have said that one track is the dark side of the other, but I'm not sure which belongs in which column.
(Subsequent note: the album booklet reveals that the whole album is dedicated to Mahmound Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, the two Iranian teenagers hanged in July 2005
; "Fugitive" now seems to me to be possibly written from their perspective.)
No, I don't know about the cover
either. I like the neon. I reserve final judgment until I have a physical copy in my hands, since it probably pops more in the flesh, and I'm sure the inner sleeve will contain all kinds of delicious goodness. But it's like it should come with night vision goggles, you know? I would've plumped for another shot, like this one with the lovely wallpaper. Also, Chris=Fun, Neil=Mental, and so there's comedy gold to be had.
I fully accept that many people find or will find "Luna Park" a bit snooze-worthy. That's largely because it's written in a rock ballad idiom: listen to it with that in mind, and you'll see that it's essentially a kind of sequel, melodically speaking, to "Love Is A Catastrophe," and indeed, would have fitted well on Release
. It doesn't help that the lyric is a bit nebulous: we can tell that it is another song about the culture of fear, but the specifics are elusive, though the pictures it paints ("Somebody's eating fire we're happy") have the same kind of surreal (or laughable, if you prefer) quality as the Boys' Liza Minnelli song "I Want You Now" ("The men from the circus are juggling with knives").
But I forget and forgive all when Neil's voice splits into two on the chorus: "Thunder, I wonder/A storm will come one day," and especially
when the self-harmonies become most sharply anguished on the next lines, "To blow us all away/Like dust on the moon." And later at the 4:10 mark, they take those harmonies apart and present them separately, and it's quite spectacularly bleak. My spine, it is tingled.
He leads, they follow: on the gorgeous middle eight of "Indefinite Leave To Remain," Neil sings a line ("Tell me where I stand? What do you envision?"), and behind him, a beat later, the horn picks up and plays the melody. It's awesome. In the running for "best moment in this song," this is a smidgeon ahead of the beautiful harmony on the line "It may sound superficial."
A song about the "Twentieth Century" that uses an electroclash riff. Is that a joke about how last century that sound is? Heh. While I'm not sure where I fall on the lyric, which I've said lacks a bit of dramatic tension
, I'm enamored of how gentle and lulling the song is. It's a somewhat Kings Of Convenience melody. And the song has the kind of funny spikiness that makes me want to declare it this album's "Miserablism." However, I do feel that it could have done with some handclaps, ironic or otherwise. Imagine it.
When I make it onto American Idol
, and they have a Diane Warren night again, I can now at least sing "Numb" as my big showstopping number.
Because I am twelve, I giggled when reading the Amazon blurb
about how the album includes a "song written by backroom legend Diane Warren." Hee. "Backroom legend." Hee hee HEEE. I've known some backroom legends in my time. Ahem. Anyway, I am today feeling a bit shamed about how this alleged mp3 blog has offered you nothing to sample this past week, but then again I don't want to incur any high profile wrath. But here is Diane Warren's original demo of "Numb."
Listen, and then, of course, delete. You'll want to.
The correct answer to the question I posed at the end of my "Resurrectionist" entry
is "yes." That song should replace "God Willing." "Psychological" has been struggling to establish a firm foothold in my affections, but it is thematically key to the album. And I love all the ballads, as the above items have established. "The Resurrectionist," in addition to being catchy as all hell, gives the album another pumping track, and if included, would have had us furiously trying to figure out if the Victorian situation it describes is meant as an allegory of some modern-day scenario. (Is Bush...a body snatcher? It obviously seems more like he's the snatchee, or just a snatch, with his mind being the thing they've taken, but, hey, I would have considered it.) Most importantly, "God Willing" is only an instrumental interlude; replacing it with "The Resurrectionist" would more truly give Fundamental
twelve tracks, and keep up the Boys' record of issuing albums with an even number of songs. Crucial. Okay, actually that record was already marred when Please
opted to constitute "Opportunites (Reprise)" as a stand-alone track on CD, but don't remind me.
"I Made My Excuses And Left" demonstrates how, in the wake of scoring Closer To Heaven
and Battleship Potemkin
, Neil and Chris know how to use musical motifs to tell a story. I've already suggested that the 2-minute opening, in which Chris apparently sings "I'm all alone again" into his handphone, has a kind of thematic "voices-in-the-head" relevance
, but it does more. Notice how the six-note passage recurs at the 3:22 mark. In a chapter straight out of a Henry James novel, Neil has stumbled upon a scene of non-verbal intimacy ("Each of you looked up, but no one said a word"), and understood. He makes his excuses, and he leaves. Then, at this precise point, we hear the passage again, replayed by strings. And so we
understand, because the musical passage, via its prior associations, tells us, purely through music, and equally without words: now he will be alone again. It's a moment in which we are emphatically, and empathetically, put in the narrator's place.
Thank you to everyone who has commented on the entries thus far, including those who did so on the earlier "Resurrectionist" post
. Many of my thoughts have been inspired by yours, and in the case of esque, with whom I've talked about the Pet Shop Boys for about a decade now, sometimes stolen.
is out in the UK this Monday, May 22
, and an American release on Rhino will supposedly follow on June 27. Go buy it. It is, after all, the bloody Pet Shop Boys, darlings.