2012’s record Elysium by the The Pet Shop Boys sparked reviews that varied in tone and critique. It was sometimes mentioned as beautifully autumnal and sad but also criticized as sounding tired and slightly bitter (often within the same review) – for me it was a record that grew in stature with each listen. I mentioned in my review that it was “not quite a masterpiece, but has some very special, very Pet Shop Boys moments.” I stand by that statement, 9 months later. I will say that one of the singles from that record – “Leaving” – stands as one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs of all time – a perfect embodiment of melancholy and hope. Historical revisionism is a curious thing and appears to be alive and well with the release of the latest Pet Shop Boys record, Electric. It is easy to fall into that trap when faced with a record that is a masterpiece because everything that immediately preceded its release seems dull in comparison. So it goes with the Pet Shop Boys in 2013. I loved last years record, but it couldn’t prepare me for the non-stop delight that is Electric.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
In early 1982 Bruce Springsteen demoed songs for the follow-up album to his hit double LP, The River. He holed himself up in his New Jersey home and cut stark home demos that reflected the personal cloud of depression he was going through. Usually the characters on the previous records had found some sort of saving grace – not so on the songs that would become the record Nebraska. The E-Street band versions of the songs were rejected in favor of the stark demo versions and the record was released to critical acclaim in September of 1982. Johnny Cash covered two of the darker tunes just a year later (Johnny 99 and Highway Patrolman) and Sean Penn wrote & directed the 1991 film Indian Runner which was based on the song Highway Patrolman. I love the entire album, but I’ve always thought the track Atlantic City pulled off a neat trick – it wraps a somewhat depressing story to a hopeful melody and layers it with a quality that is hard to capture on tape – desperation.
23 albums touched by the hand of God in 2012 – a non-numbered list of albums that I’ve played over and over that were released in 2012. Some of them were reviewed here on Jason’s Jukebox, some of them weren’t. All of them are worth your time and attention. The last look back at an amazing year of music. I’ll see you later this week with my 1st review of 2013.
Part 35 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays
When I was a 10-year-old kid (give or take a year or two) one of the major cable stations (HBO or PRISM) played the movie Eddie and the Cruisers non-stop. The movie (based on the book by P.F. Kluge) concerned a mysterious singer in a band that had been ahead of their time. It featured Michael Pare as Eddie and a supporting cast that would go on to be extremely famous in other film roles (Tom Berenger, Ellen Barkin, Joe Pantoliano). The movie was trashed by critics upon release but eventually found a cult following as a result of the nonstop plays on cable. The mood was overly dramatic with the plot focused around the disappearance of singer Eddie Wilson. Was he alive or wasn’t he? It remains one of my favorite movies ever created.