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What Have We Done To Deserve This?

A profound moment in my life happened when I came to London from sleepy, rural Shropshire in 1990; a sixteen year old boy, who'd just come out, in the city alone. I had the Pet Shop Boys playing in my cassette Walkman, and as I emerged from the tube station at Piccadilly Circus, the intro to West End Girls began. It summed up the absolute essence of London, Soho, the West End; sleazy, decadent and debauched, potently exciting.

This track remains, for me, one their greatest achievements. Their following songs, What Have I Done To Deserve This? It's A Sin and Being Boring were superb too. All managing to capture the Zeitgeist of the moment - trapping it in neatly crafted, watertight capsules of pop perfection.

It makes me wonder then, why Tennant's and Lowe's quality control systems have failed them time and again, with depressing consistency on every single album and song released since 1990. Each offering becoming more meaningless than the last - laboured, sterile laminated facsimiles of previous brilliance.

Their music now is the music of provincial graphic designers, who are bored with their jobs and living in faded warehouse apartments, furnished with black ash coffee tables and Jasper Conran curtains. Still wearing the Paul Smith suits they'd bought in 1988. Turning up at the office and churning out the same old logos and motifs, finishing by 5.30, and calling at a wine bar on Charing Cross Road for a glass of over-priced Beaujolais, before heading back home to cook Nouvelle Cuisine, while listening to Enya.

Neil Tennant, with his black tweed trench coat and obligatory Nicole Fahri scarf does look a bit like a provincial graphic designer, and always has, albeit a graphic designer now on the brink of retirement, Chris Lowe. However, seems to have entirely forgotten that almost thirty years have passed since their debut. He is now fifty one, though choosing instead to dress in exactly the same clothes he wore at 23. Nothing wrong with that perhaps, though people might be fooled into thinking that he could be the oldest rent boy in London. The notion that one could bump into Chris Lowe on a Saga cruise, seems absurd, until you get up close.

Lowe's sartorial tardis is indicative of The Pet Shop boys as they are now. Stuck in a time-warp of fading echoes. Each hollow musical repetition duller with every passing beat. This, their most recent offering, is the pinnacle of bland, the zenith of emotional indifference, imprinted into every word and note. The novelty of Tennant's post-modern posturing has worn thin, his utterances have the gravitas of Stephen Hawkin's speech synthesizer reciting the index of a Habitat catalogue. His always thin voice, is now totally disembodied, like 2001's HAL computer in for repair. Meanwhile, the musical arrangements are repetitive, but in a bad way. I wondered at one point whether Chris Lowe had fallen asleep with his finger on a Casio home keyboard, set to style preset 57, "Crappy Synth Pop Groove".

All in all it reveals itself to be nothing more than a sour tasting, meaningless mush and a cynical exercise in milking their credibility, and their fans pockets for all they are worth.

The Pet Shop Boys can now proudly join Nureyev, Mouskourri, Elton John, Margot Fonteyn and Judy Garland; The Talented and Brave who forgot to quit while they were ahead, who flogged the horse until it died, on stage and under the spotlight.