rock.jpg Excerpt from Rock on the Wild Side

Year of Release:
Original Album:
Chart Performance:
Neil Tennant -- Chris Lowe
Not released as a single (as of this writing), but the album reached #20
CD, CS (EMI 89721)
transp.gifIn late 1993 the Pet Shop Boys released Very, the finest album of their career thus far. And it also contains their "gayest" music yet.
transp.gifIt's tough focusing on any one song on such a good album, but if I had to choose, it would be "Liberation." In this gentle, beautifully melodic dance song, Neil Tennant adopts the role of an ex-cynic who had thought he was immune to love. But after a long drive home in which his friend had fallen asleep on his shoulder, he drops all of his defenses and revels in his new feelings. Much to his surprise, the personal relationship that he had feared would confine him instead gives him a powerful sense of freedom. "Now, right now," Tennant sings, "your love is liberation." And as he sings the word "liberation," Tennant's voice enters into multi-tracked harmonies, the music swooping upward in a contagious expression of sheer joy.
The Pet Shop Boys: Chris Lowe
(left) and Neil Tennant as they appear in a 1993 video.
Photo: Chris Nash.
Courtesy EMI Records.

transp.gifWhile this sense of exhilaration can come from love of either the heterosexual or homosexual variety, a song about the liberating power of love has special poignance for gay people. The Pet Shop Boys play with this poignancy by punning on the dual nature of the freedom they're celebrating. For "straight" people love can indeed be a liberating experience, but only for gay people is love in and of itself a veritable political statement. Rightly or wrongly, it is in their expressions of love that gay people are distinguished from non-gay people. By falling in love with a person of the same sex, gay men and women become freedom- fighters, whether they intend to or not. For what, after all, is gay liberation but the freedom to love whom we please? Yes, our love is liberation.
transp.gif Very contains a number of other pertinent songs as well. Neil Tennant has stated in interviews that "Can You Forgive Her?" (a Number One dance-club hit) concerns a man who has trouble accepting his gayness and must contend with a girlfriend who's aware of this fact and uses it against him. The dense, haunting "Dreaming of the Queen" is a nightsweat-drenched AIDS nightmare in which "there are no more lovers left alive," the narrator himself having lost his partner to the disease. "To Speak Is a Sin" is a melancholy but tuneful depiction of the bar scene. And in their grand tradition of truly inspired remakes, Tennant and Lowe excavate the Village People's "Go West" to convey the gay California social milieu just before the onset of AIDS. As the Boys do it (with the help of a male chorus), "Go West" becomes an eerily uplifting disco dirge, both happy and sad at the same time. Extraordinary.
transp.gif Am I overstating my case to say that Very is one of the best albums of 1993? Perhaps. But already I can't wait for the next Pet Shop Boys CD. -These guys just keep getting better.

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