While listening to the Pet Shop Boys I’ve always assumed they were speaking for themselves, telling their stories and expressing their worldview, so one of the surprises in this tome for me was the variety of sources of inspiration and roles in the lyrics – many are like short stories in verse, effortlessly creating a micro fictional world with wildly different characters and emotions – „Only the Wind“ for example, or „Hey, Headmaster“, „The Dictator Decides“, „So Hard“. Many of the lyrics I’d interpreted wrong, others I’d gotten exactly right.
There are a lot of political allegories, especially at the turn of the Millennium, when Tennant was apparently bitterly disappointed with New Labour and the UK’s participation in the so-called War on Terror. Donald Trump gets a few (unflattering) mentions in the commentary to some of the lyrics. Another big theme is the entertainment industry and its stars, mostly treated with biting satire, but with compassion, too, here and there.
I think my favourite are the ones inspired by real emotions and memories – the ones about heartbreak, the songs written for funerals of friends, the ones musing over the passage of time, nostalgia, the ways we change, love and friendship.
The commentary and the introduction are priceless, the insight it offers into Tennant/Lowe’s writing and inspiration process is fascinating. I got the impression Neil is somewhat prideful, protective of his creativity and legacy, and maybe a touch defensive, because PSB have been dismissed as brainless pop, a one-hit wonder, once too often (you can see this especially clearly in „Your Early Stuff“, composed entirely of things said to Tennant by a taxi driver who assumed the duo was long retired). But the impression is not unpleasant, on the contrary, it makes Tennant look like someone who believes in his life’s work and won’t let it be misrepresented.
The poem at the back, at only 4 lines long, is like a punch to the stomach.