April 24, 2009

Pet Shop Boys Trump Depeche Mode in New Music Nostalgia Week

After two months of anticipation, thanks in part to an iTunes Pass to the band's 'Sounds of the Universe' album, Depeche Mode opened up the vault, issuing the remaining tracks this week, helping fill my iTunes library. But surprisingly, only a few days later, it's not this album from this 1980s megaband that's getting all the playing time on my iPhone. Instead, it's the much quieter release from The Pet Shop Boys called 'Yes' which has me hitting Shuffle and then Repeat.

Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys occupy a special place in my permanent nostalgia file, reckoning back to high school and the years just before and after, joining Information Society, New Order and others. That they continue to put out great music is something of a miracle, but being a loyal listener, I buy every new song and album they release.

Given the hype and wait for 'Sounds of the Universe', I expected something amazing. And yes, while it's good, there was no hype for the Pet Shop Boys' 'Yes', and I simply can't stop playing it over and over. It was my airplane companion as I flew from Las Vegas to San Jose this evening, and the background when we arrived home and entertained the twins, who hadn't seen me in five days.

While Depeche Mode made headlines for their iTunes creativity, gaining me access to remixes and videos weeks in advance, the biggest surprise has been a special bonus track on the 'Yes' album, which contains audio commentary from the Pet Shop Boys, explaining how they arrived at lyrics, music, and how songs stayed off the cutting room floor. It's highly entertaining, just like the producer commentary on many of today's DVDs. And the album is classic Pet Shop Boys. From "Love Etc." to "Vulnerable" and "Pandemonium", many of the tracks exceed even the best from Depeche Mode's 'Sounds of the Universe'.

Depeche Mode may have far and away the most artist plays in my Last.fm library in all-time rankings, but at least for this week, in what should have been their return to glory, they're going to take a back seat. You can find both albums on iTunes, of course.

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