Sunday, 8 February 2009

Things I like a lot more than I probably should, part 1

Yep, MORE than I probably should. This is a counterpart to the previous post. And today's "thing" is:

Where the Streets Have No Name, by Pet Shop Boys

YES, I said Pet Shop Boys, NOT U2. Even if you know Pet Shop Boys reasonably well, you might not know about this relatively obscure item in their discography. Yep, it's a cover of the U2 song -- and predictably, done in early-90's synthpop/disco style. But not only that: it's not just a cover, but an actual parody, and maybe even a mockery of U2's song. Just to give you a hint, it was the B side of the single How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?, a song that comments on famous rock stars that use their exposure and fame to taken on "serious" acts, and how they can often believe they're far more important than they actually are and forget they're still mainly seen merely as rock stars. By putting the U2 cover on the B side, it becomes more than obvious who Neil Tennant was using as an image for his lyrics.

The cover basically wipes out every significant mark the original song had: instead of the magical, mystical chords coming from another dimension and the Egde's echoed guitar picking, you're slapped across the face straight away with a heavy disco beat; Tennant's vocals are absolutely detached and unemotional; and to top things off, the main hook of the song is rightfully mocked as Neil turns it into "Can't take my eyes out of you", and the song launches into the actual titular song. It's absolutely cynical, disrespectful, and of course, brilliant.

Now, I'm talking here as an actual admirer of U2. I'm greatly fond of the band and their music (well... at least until they released Achtung Baby), AND I really like the original song. My feelings about Bono's "political" stance are... mixed. I have never been able to determine how seriously he takes himself and his actions. There's little doubt he has the best of intentions, but hey, no one said you can't use your good intentions for second intentions (ha ha, ha ha, ha ha ha), and I definitely can't tell if he's really determined to make a difference and show it's possible to do good things for the people, or if he's just stuck with a Messiah complex and is trying to show how badass he is. But I'm not here to judge anyone. I wouldn't ever try to judge Bono, especially since I never even met him. But Tennant's criticism is very valid, in my opinion, more as an "alarm call" rather than an angry rant -- and even more because Pet Shop Boys is a REALLY badass band, that was able to stick in bitter, acid social critique into a music genre that's supposed to shut off people's brains and make them dance. Tennant is a guy who knows what he's talking about, and Pet Shop Boys is great and I like them. And their version of Go West is one of the best 90's songs ever, in my opinion, hands down.

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