The ultimate English pop album?

Behaviour
Forget The Jam, The Smiths and Blur. The best British album of the last 20 years? That’ll be The Pet Shop Boys 1990 masterpiece Behaviour. Criticised at the time for being old fashioned and out of touch with contemporary club culture, ironically, 15 years later, it still sounds fresh and vibrant, unlike all of those dodgy old rave white labels that were soooo cool at the time.

In years to come, the Pet Shop Boys will go down in the annals (or should that be anals?) of pop history for their camp cover versions and the dubious origins of their name, which is rumoured to involve hamsters and men’s bottoms.
If there’s any justice in the world, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe should be remembered for making one of the greatest British pop albums of all time – 1990’s Behaviour.

Their most moody and contemplative record to date, it’s awash with ruminations on love, life and loss, all set to analogue synths, autumnal strings and Johnny Marr’s exquisite guitar work.
Part recorded in Munich with Harold ‘Axel F’ Faltermeyer on production duties, Behaviour spurns the Pet Shop Boys’ trademark sample-based studio trickery for a warmer, more organic, yet downbeat, sound – Cole Porter does deep house.

At the time of its release, Behaviour was criticised for being old fashioned and out of touch with contemporary club culture. Ironically, 15 years later, it still sounds fresh and vibrant, unlike all of those dodgy old rave white labels that were soooo cool at the time.
It’s also a desperately sad record, kicking off with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman influenced Being Boring, in which Tennant recounts growing up with a close friend who’s recently died, and ending with the heavenly choirs and harps of Jealousy, the best show tune that never was.
In-between these two benchmark songs, we are transported back to Tennant’s school days for the haunting This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave, cringe as the Pet Shop Boys flirt with swing-beat on the celebrity-baiting How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously? and smile wryly at My October Symphony, which is basically Shostakovitch with house piano.

As if that’s not enough, we also get a blast of Donna Summer disco (So Hard), Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence meets Kylie (The End of The World) and a theatrical gay ballad (Nervously). What more could you want?
Robbie Williams loves this album – he once sang the whole of Only The Wind to Neil Tennant in the Groucho Club upstairs bar. How showbiz is that? Just listen to Robbie’s No Regrets – it’s practically a Behaviour outtake.
The Pet Shop Boys have never bettered Behaviour. They tried to recapture its mood with 2002’s Release, but failed to even get close.
Easily as good as The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead, Behaviour is everything a pop masterpiece should be – witty, elegant, sad, overblown and effortlessly hummable.
Absolutely fabulous, darling.

Pet Shop Boys – Behaviour 1990 (EMI)

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14 Responses to “The ultimate English pop album?”

  1. Marty Says:

    Best English pop album. What, better than Revolver? You guys are sad

  2. Sean Says:

    We said it was the best British pop album of the last 20 years – Revolver was released in 1966, so that lets us off the hook…..

    Pop Junkie

  3. Francis Rossi Says:

    Don’t forget the Quo either.

  4. Imran Says:

    I completely agree with the above article. “Behaviour” was my first ever music purchase (and now I own in excess of.. well.. too many CDs) and it will always be the one album that always gets played in my music library. It truly is the perfect example of how thought-provoking and intelligent music can be. I also agree with the statement that even though other, much celebrated, albums and artists came and went, Behaviour (and the Pet Shop Boys) will always remain a shining example of music at its finest. Looking forward to the next Pet Shop Boys’ album.

  5. Railway Children rock Says:

    Suburbia was a masterpiece, I used to listen to it on my walkman on the way home from college everyday.

  6. Phil & Mike Boila-Elam / Justus Boyz Says:

    This eloquantly written review speaks the truth in volumes! Behaviour has always been regarded in our humble opinion as an unobtainable acheivement in Pop history.

    Phil
    (Justus Boyz)

  7. Phil & Mike Boila-Elam / Justus Boyz Says:

    This eloquantly written review speaks the truth in volumes! Behaviour has always been regarded in our humble opinion as an unobtainable acheivement in Pop history.

    Phil
    (Justus Boyz)

  8. Phil & Mike Boila-Elam / Justus Boyz Says:

    This eloquantly written review speaks the truth in volumes! Behaviour has always been regarded in our humble opinion as an unobtainable acheivement in Pop history.

    Phil
    (Justus Boyz)

  9. Hulleon Records, Inc. Says:

    Thank you for acknowledging Cris and Neil’s brilliant contribution. We are huge fans of PSB over here at Hulleon Records, Inc. In addition to Behaviour we also enjoy VERY and “Shameless” from ALTERNATIVE.

  10. Pop Junkie Says:

    Us, too!
    We love Very – the best album Stock, Aitken and Waterman never made!
    Shameless was a b-side , but, arguably, it’s the ‘great lost PSB’ single – a glorious HI-NRG anthem with a bitchy snipe at liggers and media hangers on!
    Ooh, get you!

    Cheers

    Pop Junkie

  11. derek Says:

    There are many peaks in the career of PSB, Behaviour being the most obvious example. Truly a stunning, uplifting soaring album. “Being boring” is sadly beautiful and brings a lump to the eye and a tear to the throat. Surely the best opening song of any album in the last 200 years. “This must be the place I waited years to leave” is one of the best driving songs ever produced. “So hard” one of the most stomping, driven techno-thumps to grace the dance floor. The bastard single from the time, “Where the streets have no name,” took a rock anthem and turned it on its head, doing to U2 what U2 did with U2 before they did it (to paraphrase Neil.)
    The only sad thing about such a great acheivement is feeling that they were never, and will never be, quite as triumphant again. Then again, PSB only need to be billiant, and they always are.

  12. D.B. PARKES Says:

    THEIR HIGH WATER MARK…ANY BAND WHO FOLLOW THE ORGASMIC UBER-GAY-GOOSESTEP OF “SO HARD” WITH THE HEARTBREAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL “BEING BORING” AS SINGLES AND INCLUDE THEM BOTH HERE ARE SERIOUSLY DROPPING BOMBS…AND I HAVEN’T EVEN MENTIONED “JEALOUSY” OR “ONLY THE WIND” OR… (SEVERAL OTHERS)…FEEL FREE TO SPOIL YOUR EARS WITH THE B-SIDES OF THE ABOVE SINGLES (“IT MUST BE OBVIOUS” AND “WE ALL FEEL BETTER IN THE DARK” RESPECTIVELY)…SWEET CHRIST! WHAT GENIUS LURKS THEREIN

  13. CostelVlad Says:

    Behaviour and Very the Best album’s of Pet Shop Boys !

  14. C. Houtman Says:

    The best album holds the best known song. The best known song from the Pet Shop Boys is West End Girls. Therefor is Please the best album from the Pet Shop Boys.

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