Back in 1993 the release of Very demonstrated an important realisation that the music industry was changing. The advent of digital music has redefined the architecture of a typical album, and bands are forced to look at innovative ways to replace the old formula. Very tampered with the hardware - the CD case itself is plastic, bright orange, and textures - whilst the 2003 album PopArt took on the software. Although billed as a "Best Of" it rearranges many tracks from the previous "best of" (the classic Discography) into a new arrangment split between traditional "pop" and experimental "art", added to with brand new songs. This appetite for re-issuing old songs in new compilations isn't a crass moneyspinner, but a creative project that contextualises their history.
Nowadays we all deal with individual songs and upload them into our own playlists. The Pet Shop Boys ensure longevity and artistic validity by pre-empting this earthquake in music publishing.
They actively take part in the reappraisal of their own output, offering interesting playlists of their vast discography. Albums are must-have not only for their innovative designs and aesthetic beauty (the artwork for Release was breathtaking), but the attention given to ordering and context. In short, they offer a service that cannot be replicated by digital downloading.
Indeed they often pioneer technology and methods to disseminate content. Last night Channel 4 premiered the video for new single "I'm With Stupid", and it's now available to download: realvideo.mp3, windows media.mp3. It stars David Williams and Matt Lucas, and is typically self-referentially brilliant.
The Pet Shop Boys are true entrepreneurs, engaging in multiple and diverse projects such as Closer to Heaven (a West End musical now playing in Brisbane, click here.pdf for an interview) and Battlestar Potemkin (a soundtrack for the classic film, perfomed in Trafalgar Square September 2004).
The Pet Shop Boys are political but in a non-pretentious way. I'm With Stupid (like I Get Along before it) is about Tony Blair, but the undercurrent of relevent commentary sits nicely within a humerous delivery. I'll be buying (rather than downloading) Fundamental on May 22nd because in so many ways The Pet Shop Boys are one of the most productive, imaginative, and accomplished creative acts in Britain today.