Exclusive first review: Pet Shop Boys – SMASH
By John Earls | June 2, 2023
The synth-pop duo’s singles across the past 35 years are collected on a gamechanging compilation. We dive in and take stock of a landmark pop release.
When Classic Pop first learned that a new Pet Shop Boys singles compilation was planned, the office went nervous. Discography and PopArt are classics of the genre; their previous Best Of set Ultimate in 2010 was conversely an overly condensed muddle.
Since we learned of the tracklisting of PSB Singles 4.0, joy has been unconfined. As explained by Chris Lowe in issue 81, firstly SMASH is a title worthy of pop’s most erudite turn, encapsulating Smash Hits, Roy Lichtenstein and hit songs (and thus PSB’s own Hit Music.)
At a time when many two-bob punk bands demand their name is all-caps, Lowe and Neil Tennant are justified in SMASH’s shouty title. THIS is quite possibly the finest singles compilation there ever was. Bow down before it and acknowledge that Domino Dancing should have been a bigger hit at the time, unworthy peasant.
SMASH keeps matters mostly simple: the main 3CD/6LP/3cassette edition is all 54 singles from West End Girls to I Don’t Wanna in chronological order. Possibly the only mainstream act to still routinely release physical singles (and B-sides), Pet Shop Boys’ passion for the format hasn’t waned a jot since they were kicking in chairs and knocking down tables. Even if their parent album was experimenting with their softer, hard dance or LA side, the singles are routinely perfect pop songs.
Monkey Business, The Pop Kids, Vocal, Love Is A Bourgeois Construct: only that they’ve been around for so long prevents PSB’s recent stuff from storming the barricades as effectively as It’s A Sin or Being Boring.
The 3CD+2Blu-Ray format addresses the “What even is a single now?” question by adding 13 more sort-of singles, also wondrous (OK, OK, maybe not Burning The Heather.) The second Blu-Ray contains the videos for all the main singles. Part of a proper single package is a great video. There are all kinds of great promos there. If you’ve lost your way with PSB since Yes, you’re a clot. But you’re also a clot who’s in for a treat. What a compilation.