“Love Etc.” – Pet Shop Boys

4 stars (out of 5)

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The hit machine of the 1980’s (and a bit beyond) meets the hit machine of the Noughties (the Xenomania production team who work with Girls Aloud and Sugababes) and what’s the result?  No surprises – it’s a hit.  The main lyrical theme of the song is an update of The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” 45 years down the line; it doesn’t matter how many possessions you have, they’re worth nothing if you don’t have  love.  It’s a long way from: “I’ve got the brains, you’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of money.”

The first obvious Xenomania influence is in the opening verse, underpinned by a signature shuffle tempo which is displaced in the chorus by a four to the floor bassline taking the song back to more familiar Pet Shop Boys territory.  The second major influence is the use of the call and response chorus which is a regular Xenomania device rarely used by the Pet Shop Boys (“Left To My Own Devices” is a possible exception).  These techniques update the Pet Shop Boys undoubted songwriting talents to appeal to a 2009 audience while retaining the laconic lyrical style which has always been their trademark.

In the current musical climate it’s a major achievement to survive for 5 years.  The Pet Shop Boys first charted in 1985, 24 years ago, and they’re  still producing intelligent and listenable pop songs – how often do those 2 qualities meet up?  Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe are still writing quality pop tunes  and soaking up contemporary influences when they could be thinking about comfortable retirement as British pop legends – that’s something you have to admire.