Behaviour, by The Pet Shop Boys
Suggested by Paul Wray
It’s odd, when people go against type. Refreshing, but odd.
I’ve a friend who’s hugely into hard rock and heavy metal. Full on rock hair to the waist, denim and leather, back patch, bullet belt, the whole nine yards. At home with the growl, his salutes are all rock and his Vees are definitely flying.
His favourite band? Wet Wet Wet. He’s seen them countless times, and followed a full European tour more than once.
We all have these clandestine loves, these musical peccadillos, and there’s no shame in it. They add to our personal aural tapestry. Mine are tricky to quantify at present, as I’m open to anything that isn’t growly, but I had an unhealthy respect for Robbie Williams back in my metal days. My mum? She’s a seventies child, big on Disco and Boney M and all that guff. One of her favourite songs? Susan’s House, by downbeat indie depressives Eels. I couldn’t begin to imagine how she heard it, never mind why she loves it so. And my dad, a dyed-in-the-wool Folk and Country fan, with no other musical outreach at all, really loved It’s a Sin, by Pet Shop Boys. AS such, I’ve always had a fondness for the duo, of at least for their charting songs.
Behaviour is the band’s fourth studio release, which hit the shelves in 1990.. At the time, they were an established chart dance act, with a host of fine singles behind them. West End Girls, Opportunities, It’s a Sin, Always on My Mind, even Domino Dancing. And after Behaviour, they had hits too. I’d rank Single-Bilingual and I Wouldn’t Normally Do this Kind of Thing highly, but I guess Go West is the big dog here. It’s strange, then, that my mind does a hard pass when it comes to the tunes on Behaviour. The singles were So Hard, Being Boring, Jealousy and How Can You Expect to be Taken Seriously? Quite frankly, none of them even get close to the box containing the bell, never mind ringing it.
Having only strong singles in mind, I was surprised, and not unpleasantly, to discover that the sound is much less dance-centric and much more melodic synth-pop that I expected. It’s breezy, full of air, with a fine skipping vocal that’s understated and characterful. It sounds mature, somehow, and not quite as in-your-face as I expected. However, while it’s nice, it’s not particularly exciting. There’s a feeling that in their evolution, the Pet Shop Boys unique sound has been boiled away, their pas left high on the heat for a little too long. Like late-career Madness output, it’s perfectly fine… but it’s not Madness. Predictably, my standout song is the only one I feel retains the duo’s earlier drive, the stabbing-synth track So Hard that I mentioned earlier.
Behaviour gets a lukewarm 5/10. While it was nice enough, it wasn’t what I expected. Pet Shop Boys have continued releasing material down the years, and now number fourteen studio albums to date. Maybe I’ll check out some of their modern work down the line.