Pet Shop Boys Discuss ‘Electric’, Their Euphoric Summer Album: Idolator Interview

Robbie Daw | June 21, 2013 6:51 am

I inevitably have to ask about the Bruce Springsteen cover on Electric, “The Last To Die.” I wasn’t familiar with that particular song before. NEIL: Neither were we! [Laughs]

How did it come to your attention? CHRIS: My sister liked the song and she said… NEIL: How did she get to hear it? CHRIS: I’ll ask her, because I don’t know. It’s quite obscure and, actually, I don’t think my sister is a big Bruce Springsteen fan. I will ask her how she came across it. But, anyway, she recommended it to us, and the thing is, when you listen to it, you can really imagine how we could do that song. It’s got a fantastic guitar riff that would immediately translate into a synthesizer riff — even though it ended up as a vocal riff on our version. But it works for four on the floor. The lyrics are very uplifting, really. I think it’s fantastic. And also, we sort of imagined that it would be a bit like a Killers record, working with Stuart —a mixture of rock and electronic dance music, with a bit of filter thrown in for good measure. [“The Last To Die”] sounds like a Pet Shop Boys record.

Speaking of The Killers, given that Brandon Flowers is a fan of Bruce, I was going to ask if he’d heard your take on this song, and what he thought of it? CHRIS: Brandon would probably have heard it, I think. NEIL: Stuart said he liked it. CHRIS: Actually, it would it would be great to have got Brandon guesting on it. [Laughs] NEIL: [Also laughing] We discussed it but then we thought, it’s a bit too Killers then, isn’t it? It’d seem a bit cheeky if we approached him.

I think that actually could have worked pretty well! Do you know if Bruce himself has heard your cover? NEIL: No. I think we’re going to send it to him at some point. CHRIS: I hope he likes it, because I think our version is really very good. We’ve not done it with any sense of irony. NEIL: Far from it. CHRIS: It’s a very genuine cover version.

Neil, you mentioned this being a full-on dance album, and it does feel like it’s in a similar vein as your Disco series or 1993’s Very companion Relentless, particularly with tracks like “Axis,” “Fluorescent” and “Shouting In The Evening.” NEIL: I think they sound more like Relentless than they are Disco.

Let’s take a moment to talk about Relentless, which is your only release that’s no longer available. Any plans to ever re-release it with bonus material? NEIL: Well, there aren’t really any extra tracks to release it with. I agree it’s a shame that it’s not out there. We haven’t [any plans] at the moment, but one day maybe it will [be re-released]. I quite like the fact that you had to buy it at the time. I think there’s something quite exciting about that.

Pet Shop Boys — “Vocal”

I want to thank you for the upbeat Electric closing track “Vocal,” because you gave many fans a scare with both “Legacy” on Yes and “Requiem In Denim And Leopardskin” on Elysium — final songs on each album that possibly hinted at your retirement from pop. NEIL & CHRIS: [Laugh] CHRIS: That’s very funny, because we have been finishing all of our albums with quite depressing songs recently. It’s quite nice to end on an upbeat note for a change — on a note of optimism.

You mentioned “Vocal” was written early on. CHRIS: We started to write that song in Berlin. We thought it was fantastic when we wrote it. We started to record it with Andrew Dawson in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t really coming together right. It didn’t seem to fit the Elysium album. Then we started to work on it again with Stuart. But it didn’t really come together until the day before the album had to be delivered. It was never quite as — we’ve been using this word “banging” all the time, but I can’t think of an alternative word for it — but it’s really pumping, isn’t it, in its present form? It was a bit more laid back in its original state. I mean, this sounds to me like it should be played on the main dance floor in the middle of the night, really. It’s probably the most uplifting, euphoric piece of music we’ve put out in a long time.

Your Electric Tour, which seems like quite the energetic spectacle, is underway, and it hits the States in September. What can we expect from it? NEIL: I think you can get quite a strong sense from the video for “Axis,” which is the opening video of the show. And we’ve taken very seriously — with Es Devlin and also the choreographer we’ve worked with, Lynne Page, and our light designer — that the show is called Electric. We wanted to use that word as an inspiration for the way the production feels and looks. The last show, which was very theatrical in a costume-y sense, also had…not a narrative, but a sort of through-line, with the girls with the cubes on their head. There was a relationship between the other two dancers. This one is more impressionistic and electronic. We’ve got lasers for the first time on tour. There’s a lot of backdrop film. There are two dancers who play very specific roles here and there — in that video for “Axis” they are the two people with monster heads. Like the last show, it’s structured in four parts. We went through our back catalog and chose songs that we thought fitted “electric” — songs that we’ve never done before, like “Fugitive,” for instance. It’s a bit darker than the last tour, though it gets very poppy toward the end, of course. And it gets quite euphoric, really. So it goes from electric darkness to euphoria.

I’m really looking forward to seeing you do “Fugitive” and “I’m Not Scared” live. Last thing: I’ll land in trouble with my mother if I don’t mention that she just texted and said to tell you hello. She’s been listening to your music since I was a kid. She had no choice in the matter. NEIL: Oh, wow. CHRIS: That’s so nice. Thank you.

See you on stage in September. NEIL: Thanks very much. CHRIS: Great! Bye.

Pet Shop Boys’ new album Electric will be released on July 16. “Vocal” and “Axis” are available on iTunes now. The Electric Tour, now going through Europe, starts in North America on September 12.