Six new Pet Shop Boys projects on the way + It Was 30 Years Ago Today: my first PSB concert

“I am Musik. Musik is me…”

Fresh from their surprise appearance with The Killers at Glastonbury, Pet Shop Boys have announced that they intend to issue their as-yet-untitled 14th studio album early next year.

In a short social media message on Twitter the pair have confirmed that their new LP should land in January 2020 on their own label x2, through Kobalt.

The record, partly recorded at Berlin’s famed Hansa Studios where David Bowie, Brian Eno and Tony Visconti recorded Heroes and some of Low, will be the third album in their Stuart Price-produced trilogy that sparked up with 2013’s Electric, which garnered some of the best reviews of the dynamic duo’s long career. Electric was followed in 2016 by the not-quite-living-up-to-its-name Super.

January is a traditionally quiet post-Christmas deck-clearing month for new releases, and it feels like their marketing machine will possibly exploit such a lull for a high chart position. Every one of the previous 13 luckily made the UK Top 10, though only one, 1993’s Very managed to claim the top spot.

The seminal synth pop duo recently released a politically charged EP, Agenda, and will headline BBC Radio 2 Live in London’s Hyde Park on September 15th, where they will reportedly premiere their new single, Dreamland, a collaboration with Olly Alexander from Years & Years.

Back in April the boys teased a photo from the recording sessions, but it wasn’t the first time the trio have got together after a collaboration took shape back in 2017.

Olly told The Guardian at the time:

“I felt like I didn’t want to write about politics simply because I felt like I should, but then last week I wrote a song with the Pet Shop Boys. It’s inspired by a fairground in Margate called Dreamland, but while I was writing it, Neil Tennant said to me, ‘This makes sense right now with Trump closing the borders’, and the song became something that touched on what’s going on in the world. I’d write lyrics and he’d say, ‘No, it needs to be more direct.’ He’d take a simple line and interject a subversive political statement. That’s the challenge as a pop writer, to do both at once.”

Team PSB have also been scribing a clutch of further material for various other side projects coming to fruition in 2019, which may also explain the unusual five-month delay between the album’s delivery and release.

Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant have written four pieces of incidental music and a couple of new songs for a stage version of the classic British film set in Thatcher’s London of the 1980s, My Beautiful Laundrette, written by Hanif Kureishi.

The production will premiere in Leicester at the end of September and then tour to other cities in the UK. The music will be released on Kobalt/x2 label “at some point.”

But before that, for much of August, Musik, PSB’s new 50-minute musical cabaret written by the playwright Jonathan Harvey, is at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.

It’s set to feature four new Tennant/Lowe compositions, including a Lotte Lenya-styled Germanic opener, Ich Bin Musik, a full-on disco banger and a “touching torch song” for the finalè.

Musik is built around what the band’s website proclaimed to be “an outrageous book by Jonathan Harvey,” promises stinging barbs at everyone from Trump to Madonna (how rude).

The show sees my former Silk colleague Frances Barber resume the one-woman role of Berlin’s answer to Norma Desmond, the erstwhile pop star Billie Trix that she had originated in Closer To Heaven, the earlier PSB/Harvey musical from 2001.

In fact, Musik is a sequel of sorts to C2H, which, by an “amazing coincidence” (reckons Neil), is currently gaining new audiences at a new production in London, with Adele Anderson taking over the Billie Trix role made infamous by Barber. It’s currently running at Vauxhall’s Above The Stag, the only full-time professional LGBT+ theatre in the UK, until 31 August.

Musik also includes two previously released tracks, the Vietnam protest song Run Girl Run, and Friendly Fire, the elegiac piano ballad “written from the point of view of being David Bowie,” appears in both shows. Indeed, it was this song that gave birth to the character of Billie in the first place, even though the initial lyrics came to Tennant in a dream around the time PSB were in the studio (re)recording the 1996 Hallo Spaceboy single with David Bowie.

Lastly, A Man From The Future, their eight-movement song cycle based on the life and work of Alan Turing, which premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in 2014, may “live again” before long in a new extended orchestral production with visuals.

Phew.

BONUS:
Can I get a personal rewind? Today marks 30 years since my very first Pet Shop Boys concert, on their first tour (Pet Shop Boys on tour MCMLXXXIX, directed by Derek Jarman, to give it its proper title), but also the boys’ first ‘official’ full show in London, which took place at Wembley Arena on Wednesday 19 July 1989. 

Sadly the only image I could find is this collage thing, which shows Neil after that first Wembley performance signing my programme twice because the first autograph smudged as I pulled it through the wire fence. Swingorilliant, obviously.

I want a…

Steve Pafford

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