All-Time Albums: #6



1 One More Chance 5:30
What Have I Done To Deserve This? 4:17 (UK single, #2)
3 Shopping 3:37
4 Rent 5:07 (UK single, #8)
5 Hit Music 4:44
It Couldn’t Happen Here 5:20
7 It’s A Sin 4:59 (UK single, #1)
I Want To Wake Up 5:08
9 Heart 3:58 (UK single remixed, #1)
10 King’s Cross 5:10

The second Pet Shop Boys album era is an odd mixture of the imperial and the unfortunate. Rightly viewed as probably the definitive statement of their career, it contains two UK #1s and brought Dusty Springfield back to life; but it’s also home to a rushed sleeve that the band hate, a track which shared its title with their cinematic folly, and a closing song which (sort of) unintentionally predicted the Kings Cross disaster of late 1987.

The best-known single from this period doesn’t feature either, while it even had the misfortune to be released a week after Michael Jackson’s Bad, and on the same day as the first new Pink Floyd LP in four years, thus depriving it of the chance to debut at #1.

Furthermore, Actually deigns to open with the Twelve-Inch mix of an album track, and the big hit single doesn’t appear until track 2 of the second half (their sequencing of the album remains a curious thing to me after all these years). I never felt tempted to fiddle around with the order, despite CD technology giving me the chance (the way Actually actually is, means that its two weaker moments get buried at the end of Side 1 and near the end of Side 2 so maybe it’s for the best).

My relationship with this album was forged on unseasonably warm September nights in the first week of its release, driving around the then-quiet streets of West London, and that link has stayed with me ever since. I can’t listen to these songs without those visuals coming to mind. Actually, for me, is synonymous with that period just before Black Monday, just before the big storm of 1987, before Always On My Mind, before the silly film…before my own life went in a very crazy and unpleasant direction very quickly. Actually pulls me back to the world before all of that.

How would I define my favourite Pet Shop Boys music? Think of Two Divided By Zero, basically, with a bit of Love Comes Quickly thrown in (so you could say it’s all been downhill ever since!). That’s why I love Actually, it has more of that essence (cf. Shopping, Rent, Kings Cross, I Want To Wake Up) than even Please itself did.

It’s an album of the city. And that city could only be in England. And the only act that could make an album like this are the Pet Shop Boys.

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