Released - 2009
For their 2009 album, the Pet Shop Boys turned to the highly successful U.K. production team of Xenomania, led by songwriter and producer Brian Higgins. Pop hitmakers extraordinaire—they have been to the U.K. pop charts in the 2000s what Stock-Aitken-Waterman were back in the 1980s—Xenomania have helmed hits by Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Saint Etienne, Texas, Rachel Stevens, and various other artists far better known in Britain than in the United States. They've been much less successful stateside, though their greatest U.S. triumph is no small potato: Cher's phenomenal "Believe," which not only reached the top slot but was also named by Billboard magazine the #1 single of 1999. (Not so incidentally, it was "Believe," with its worldwide combined single and album sales of—get this—more than 25 million copies, that bankrolled the start of the Xenomania pop dynasty.)
Following the somewhat more serious, contemplative stances they had adopted for their two previous studio albums, Release and Fundamental, it would seem that the Boys sought out Xenomania to reboot their status as one of contemporary music's most "poptastic" acts. In October 2008, during the late stages of working on the album, Neil described the album in progress as "our most commercial record in 15 years." In so doing, he was clearly harkening back to their 1993 pop masterpiece Very, their only U.K. #1 album and arguably their all-time most popular, critically acclaimed collection. To be sure, the choice of Yes as the title strongly suggested that the album would have a predominantly positive, upbeat air. Neil has also confirmed that it was partly inspired by the "Yes, we can!" slogan of the Barack Obama U.S. presidential campaign of only a few months before. As he told a German interviewer, it "sounds a lot like Obama."
As early as February 2008, before they decided to work with Xenomania, Chris and Neil had already written at least seven new songs that they considered likely candidates for inclusion on the album. But they also enjoyed collaborating with Higgins in composing some additional songs. One that they co-wrote in late 2008 for Girls Aloud, "The Loving Kind," proved something of a "preview" of the album's overall style: upbeat, pop-oriented, and melodic, yet also quite intelligent. In other words, what the Pet Shop Boys are best known for.
Recording began in summer 2008 and continued into the autumn. The Boys completed work on the album—finalizing the mixes on its eleven tracks—in late November. It has a running time of approximately 48 minutes, and three of its songs were co-written by Xenomania. From the Boys' perspective, Yes is neatly divided into two parts, which in the days of vinyl would have been the two sides of the album. "Side 1" (running through "More Than a Dream") is the more conventionally "poppy" side, with each of its songs virtually a ready-made single. "Side 2" (starting with "Building a Wall"), while still essentially pop-oriented, is a bit more adventuresome, culminating in one of the most experimental tracks of their career, "Legacy."
The album cover art displays a large check mark—or "affirmative tick," as the Boys have referred to it—symbolizing the "Yes" of the title. The check is made up of eleven squares of different colors, each representing one of the eleven tracks on the album. It was inspired by artist Gerhard Richter's design of the windows in the cathedral of Cologne, Germany, which the Boys apparently saw on the cover of a catalogue for a Richter exhibition at London's Serpentine Gallery. Richter gets a corresponding nod by being mentioned in the lyrics of the album's first single, "Love etc."
A special limited edition of the album featured a bonus disc titled Yes etc. In addition to remixes of several of the parent album's tracks, it also offered the bonus track "This Used to Be the Future." Music journalist/archivist Ian Peel, writing in the booklet accompanying the 2011 ZTT Records compilation The Art of the 12", recalled a conversation with Neil from around the time of the Yes release in which Neil said that at least part of the inspiration behind Yes etc. could be found in classic 1980s remix albums like Soft Cell's Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing, The Human League's Love and Dancing, and the Eurythmics’ Touch Dance. (Of course, we mustn't forget another classic of the genre from the same period, PSB's own Disco.) It's worth noting that this source of inspriration may have in turn inspired the tapping of The Human League's Philip Oakey for guest-vocalist duties on the aforementioned bonus track.
Top Picks by Voter Ratings
Wayne's Top Picks
- Love etc.
- All Over the World
- Beautiful People
- Did You See Me Coming?
- More Than a Dream
- Building a Wall
- King of Rome
- The Way It Used to Be
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