Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

Love the nightlife


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It's been more than 30 years since UK duo Pet Shop Boys, led by out frontman Neil Tennant, burst onto the music scene. Early PSB hit singles "West End Girls" and "Opportunities" led us straight to the dance floor. The Dusty Springfield duet "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" became an instant classic, and their reverent cover of Village People's "Go West" took on new meaning when it was released in 1993 at the height of the AIDS era. PSB's first five albums received the expanded reissue treatment in 2001, and three later releases – 1999's Nightlife , 2002's Release and 2006's Fundamental (all on Parlophone/Rhino) – are now getting their due. Each set contains remastered versions of the original discs, as well as "Further Listening" discs featuring demos, a variety of mixes, live tracks and more, previously unreleased on CD.

Nightlife is notable for the heartbreaking "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk," the clubby "Closer to Heaven" (also featured in the stage musical of the same name co-written by PSB and Beautiful Thing playwright Jonathan Harvey) and the Village People homage "New York City Boy." The Nightlife package includes two additional "Further Listening" discs with songs from 1996-2000.

Easily one of the most daring and enduring albums in the PSB oeuvre, Release features The Smiths' Johnny Marr (with whom Tennant collaborated on the Electronic side-project), giving the material a new edge. PSB doesn't abandon its trademark sound, simply augments it, as you can hear on "Home and Dry,", "I Get Along," "You Choose" and Eminem jab "The Night I Fell in Love." As with Nightlife, Release features two "Further Listening" discs, with songs from 2001-04.

The third installment in the reissue series, Fundamental, featuring the brilliant "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show," is a bit of a curiosity. When it was initially issued, the disc was available with the eight-song Fundamentalism bonus disc. The "Further Listening" disc for the Fundamental reissue, consisting of 22 previously unreleased songs from 2005-07, only includes a few from Fundamentalism (the Elton John duet on "In Private" has been scuttled to the expanded Release ).

It's unfortunate what bisexual pop star Kesha had to go through regarding her legal battle with music Svengali Dr. Luke. At the end of the day, however, she has emerged a better, more mature and original artist than she was while under his thumb. Her new album Rainbow (RCA), which is as celebratory as it is serious, is a career high point. Anthemic and empowering numbers "Bastards," "Let Em Talk" (featuring Eagles of Death Metal), "Woman" (featuring The Dap-Kings Horns), "Hymn," "Praying," "Learn To Let Go" and the title tune are good examples of making the personal universal, and many of her LGBTQ fans are sure to find something to relate to in her struggles. Kesha even unleashes her inner cowgirl on "Boots," "Hunt You Down," "Spaceship" and "Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)," a duet with Dolly Parton co-written by Kesha's mother Pebe Sebert.

The Kele Okereke you hear on Fatherland (BMG/The End) isn't just vastly different from the one you heard when he was the openly gay frontman of art-punk band Bloc Party, but also unlike the one you heard on his solo albums, 2010's The Boxer and 2014's Trick . First of all, he's no longer a one-named artist. Gone are the synths and electronic beats, replaced by a more stripped-down approach. What you get is an honest-to-goodness organic singer-songwriter album, with standouts including "You Keep on Whispering His Name," "Streets Been Talkin'," the flirty cabaret of "Capers," the retro soul of "Do U Right," the emotional "Savannah" and the stunning "Portrait." That's Olly Alexander (gay frontman of Years & Years) joining Okereke on "Grounds for Resentment" and Grammy-winner Corinne Bailey Rae on "Versions of Us."

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