News: Pet Shop Boys Give Stupidity A Chance

“Intelligent people have had their say, it’s time for the foolish to show the way.”

Pet Shop Boys this week will make available four brand new songs from their forthcoming EP, Agenda. And they have a message for millennials: Give Stupidity A Chance.

Discussing the politically charged EP, Neil Tennant said: “It contains three satirical songs and one rather sad song. I think it’s because of the times we’re living through.” Produced by former Xenomania mainstay Tim Powell, Give Stupidity A Chance is the lead track on the extended play release, and you just have to pay even a passing amount of attention to the lyrics to grasp the fact that PSB have decided to take on some of the big brash topics of today. Indeed, Tennant describes it as a satire “about the poor quality of political leadership in the modern world.”

As early as the anti-capitalist mantras of 1986’s Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money) and 1987’s Shopping (not, actually, about Lacroix-loving label queens but the Thatcher government’s privatisation programme), Neil’s never been afraid to get political or tackle typically topical subjects, and he can’t help stepping all over himself to explain away his millennial ennui. It’s the ultimately charming feature, not the bug, of the seminal synth duo—and on the surface, the bitterly sneering Stupidity is perfectly attuned to the hyper-aware environment of this over-connected age.

Once you see that title, it’s clear they’re back it squib territory, and there’s no prizes for guessing the targets they’re taking on: Trump and Brexit. Neil once told me in an interview that “we’ve always liked to have songs that make you laugh when you see the title” and Stupidity certainly falls into that category, though on first play the joke wears rather thin, say after about ten seconds. Sample lyrics:

“We need a leader who knows that money means class / With an eye for a peach perfect piece of ass / Not a total dumb cluck, just one of the guys / Let’s give stupidity a price.”

Yikes.

Pets win prizes

Stupidity is almost like the third part of the Pets’ 21st Century political triptych: I Get Along, a scarf-scarf-waving Beatles/All The Young Dudes pastiche from 2002’s under-cooked and underwhelming Release, tackled Tony Blair’s relationship with Peter Mandelson; come 2006 it was Blair and Bush and the cattier I’m With Stupid, though at least there were far better songs on the album from which it was extracted, the Trevor Horn-helmed Fundamental.

Stupidity is by far the weakest song of the three. If you had to pick a PSB single it’s as good as you would plump for 2012’s Winner, the much-loathed Olympics cash-in that failed to ring up sales on any pop podiums at the time. Bizzarely, Stupidity, with its wafer-like demo quality and cringeworthy lyrics, even sounds like a ham-fisted amalgam of I Get Along and Winner. And if Winner was originally written with Eurovision in mind, Stupidity sounds like the sequel.

By all accounts, the song won’t feature on the duo’s third Stuart Price produced album, which they’ve partly recorded at Berlin’s famed Hansa Studios (David Bowie and Brian Eno, U2, Depeche Mode) and due in the fourth quarter of 2019. That’s no bad thing. It’s pretty trite, and possibly something else that rhymes with trite too.

Stupidity can be listened to on streaming services, download stores and other usual suspects such as YouTube. Another song will be made available tomorrow, then one on Thursday and finally the fourth on Friday. The complete EP will be available to purchase as a physical item only as a 12” vinyl or as a CD book bundle with Pet Shop Boys Annually, their yearly publication due April 12, the same day the Tennant and Lowe release their film of last year’s Inner Sanctum shows at London’s Royal Opera House. 

Steve Pafford

Postscript: the EP’s second track is On Social Media, literally. It’s just been uploaded to Soundcloud. What Are We Going To Do About The Rich? and The Forgotten Child (probably the sad one) follow.

Pet Rock at the Groucho: edited highlights from Steve Pafford‘s second Pet Shop Boys interview is here

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