tremble clef

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pet Shop Boys, "Integral (PSB Perfect Immaculate 7-Inch Mix)" (2007)

Despite the fact that it was a stripped-down, cube-free show, there were too many highlights to recount when the Pet Shop Boys played SingFest back on August 8. (Sprockets to me: "That was the best concert I've ever been to. Granted, I don't go to any, but still.")

But as far as favorite audience moments go, I had two indisputable ones. Both came courtesy of the group of men who stood to my left. They were excitable to the point of being hysterical, and verged on being rubbish gays, but they were obviously huge fans who could sing along to every single word of "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show." (A song that has, by the way, since I first wrote about it, gotten more enshrined in my mind as the peak of Fundamental, as an update of and worthy successor to "Being Boring.")

The first highlight these men provided came with the opening strains of "Suburbia," when they barked along with the doggie sound effects. BARKED ALONG. That's hardcore fandom, y'all.

The second highlight was more inadvertent. As Neil trotted out in his military regalia -- and, since it was so humid here, the backing vocalists (including my future husband Andy Love) meanwhile chose to be shirtless for this number, which, hallelujah -- the booming, problematically Big Brotherish notes of "Integral" started. One of the gays shrieked and seemed close to a conniption, or perhaps to actually going out of his everlovin' mind, but he had enough left in him to...raise his right hand skywards to the melody. For just a moment, the scene was unfortunately fascistic. But the heiling gesture couldn't sustain itself, because the proverbial limp wrist took over.

It was a perfect little moment. As much as Pet Shop Boys might flirt with fascist imagery, if only to illustrate and parody it, here was an assurance -- or, if you want, call it an illusion -- that homosexuality will always work, even accidentally, to undercut it. Maybe the relationship between gayness and fascism is one that, hopefully, will always be doomed to failure.

(But just in case, Neil and Chris have severely rearranged "Integral" -- for the upcoming Disco 4 compilation, although this is the 7-inch version that won't see a commercial release. In the terrific booklet for the Cubism DVD, Chris's complaint after a rehearsal is that "the dancers stand at the front in some of the uptempo songs...and commit the sin of 'grooving.' (He says the word as though it denotes an obviously ridiculous and reprehensible type of behaviour.) Because, he reasons, '"Integral" is meant to be an ode to fascism, isn't it?'" They'll find "grooving" to this new version much more difficult; it sounds less seductively fascistic, more unambiguously sinister and evil. In this day and age, you can never be too sure.)


  • It's alive! It's ALIVE!

    By Blogger xolondon, at 7:14 PM  

  • I can see this new mix will probably leave people scratching their heads over the enthusiasm fans have shown "Integral" and that’s a shame as the original still gets me every time. What can I say: woof woof.

    By Blogger Daft Monk, at 4:07 PM  

  • It's not bad I guess, but sadly they left out the 90's eurodancey synth riff which was by far my favorite part.

    By Blogger daavid, at 4:50 AM  

  • ...and now that I think of it, this also makes sense within the context of your post. I guess what made the original (Fundamental) version more interesting is that it was BOTH seductively fascistic and gay.

    By Blogger daavid, at 5:02 AM  

  • Fascistic and gay. Or FAG for short.

    By Anonymous esque, at 6:51 AM  

  • Yes, the original version was both fascistic and gay -- which made it interesting, but also "dangerous," in the sense that it was susceptible to misinterpretation. And by "misinterpretation," I don't simply mean the act of sitting at your desk and "misinterpreting." What struck me about the concert-goer was precisely the way he was seduced into, or carried away into a kind of "misinterpretation." He was so thrilled and moved by the beat that he mimed a fascist gesture. Thankfully, it failed -- and I guess my point was that it is my hope that his homosexuality guaranteed that it would fail. But the new version helps us not get so carried away; I'm not necessarily saying that Neil and Chris menat it that way, but the crowd noise at the end -- which I'll bet was actually taped at one of their concerts -- suggests to me that the remix may be a kind of reaction to the reaction that the concert crowds have given "Integral."

    In a sense, "Integral" is quite unique in the PSB canon. Off the top of my head, all the other PSB songs that have used that Gothic disco beat (which I'm calling fascist) have not been so lyrically immersed in the fascist point of view. "It's A Sin" features a chorus that is arguably told from the school authorities' point of view, but the verses is Neil (the sinner) speaking. If "A Red Letter Day" sounds fascist, it can be taken as a comment about a communist regime that makes people wait and wait. In other words, I think "Integral" -- and perhpas "Go West" -- leaves us the least room for critical distance, and is the most fascistically "seductive."

    By Blogger Brittle, at 8:02 PM  

  • I see what you mean, and I agree. But I I've always loved that ambiguous and "dangerous" side to the PSB ("Fugitive" is another example isn't it?) and it bothers me a little when they change things to make them a bit more ...well, obvious ("look, our song is an anti-fascist satire; fascism is evil and sinister").

    But yes, I agree that it's kind of disturbing to see how easy it is to cross the line (even if it's in the form of a "spontaneous" gesture).

    By Blogger daavid, at 12:52 PM  

  • Kind of random, but to me it's very "Autobahn"/Kraftwerk...

    By Blogger J'ason D'luv, at 12:45 PM  

  • Not random at all. The new mix is in a sense an attempt to reimagine "Integral" as "Psychological." That makes the new mix more thematically apt, I think, although less danceable and poptastic. But it does bring the Fundamental era to a nice, full-circle close.

    By Blogger Brittle, at 1:43 PM  

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