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Music Review: Pet Shop Boys – Christmas

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Pet Shop Boys end a successful 2009 with a brief but interesting holiday offering. But it's far from the typical holiday release, and in fact only lives there by chosen title only. Christmas, first of all, isn't a collection of holiday standards. That would be dreadful. Thankfully, it's more a Christmas gift than a Christmas collection. The EP offers up a couple of cover tracks, a couple of reworked originals, and a club remix to keep things from ever really slowing down.

"It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas" opens the EP, and is also the lone holiday offering. The version here is an update on their original, which was part of a fan club-only release years ago. Here the track receives a bit more orchestral fill and overall production. In typical PSB style, it's more cheeky than sentimental, but it is a fun track. The style is classic, very-era disco pop, and finds the Boys doing the holiday release thing without actually selling out.

"My Girl" follows, and is a cover of a song by U.K. band Madness. Here the song becomes very much their own, and almost sounds like it could be a lost b-side. Much like the preceding track, the arrangement here taps into the group's strengths and maintains a very lighthearted and bouncy-pop feel.

"All Over The World" is an alternate version from what is found on their most recent album, Yes. It's not a grand departure, but finds the pace slowed down just slightly and the orchestral parts cranked up a bit more. Although not specifically a holiday offering, the musical quotations from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker ballet suite help add to the EP's Christmas theme.

Continuing on in the covers category, the Boys undertake Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." Much like their cover of U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" from years ago, taking on more rock-oriented tracks isn't their strength. Although it sounds very distinctly Pet Shop Boys and deadpan, it makes the track more sterile than it needs to be. It's fun, but it's a trifle. Inter cut with the song are vocal allusions to their own "Domino Dancing", although it's kept subtle and never becomes a mash-up.

Finally, there is the Our House Mix of "My Girl." This is a nicely done remix, keeping to the melodic structure of the previous version while offering a more club-friendly groove. Slightly more dark sounding, but with an infectious beat, this could also be an alternate version and ends the quick set with energy.

The feeling of Christmas is one of a nice supplement to Yes. It is thankfully not a mix of leftover and left-field remixes of singles, but rather offers some fresh cuts, and thankfully sounds like classic Pet Shop Boys. For most casual and serious fans there is ample unique material here to merit a look. Although neither ground breaking nor essential, it fills the more important role of being fun. Merry Christmas, from the Pet Shop Boys.

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About David R Perry