Album Challenge Day 7: Pet Shop Boys “Format”, Best B-Sides Ever!


Why a b-sides collection instead of one of their remarkable albums “Please”, “Very” or “Yes”? Because Pet Shop Boys are perhaps the greatest b-side artists besides The Beatles. See what I did there?

Being so prolific, not everything can fit onto their albums – thus, hilarious, ironic, lyrically engrossing songs often get left as b-sides or bonus tracks on singles. To the great delight of us collectors.

Fun Fact: Their first b-sides collection, “Alternative”, would have been called “Besides” except that another band snatched that title so they had to find an alternative title. That 2-CD set consisted of 30 tracks, covering 1985-1995, followed by “Format”, covering 1996-2009 with a whopping 38 tracks. A third collection should follow, given recent amazing b-sides “An Open Mind”, “No Boundaries” and “Decide”.

I never thought they could top themselves after “Alternative” with classics such as “A Man Could Get Arrested”, “You Know Where You Went Wrong”, “Do I Have To”, “It Must Be Obvious”, “Bet She’s Not Your Girlfriend”, “Miserablism”, and “Shameless” along with covers “Losing My Mind” (guide vocal version for Liza Minelli), “If Love Were All”, and “Girls & Boys”.

But “Format” does best it – somehow – starting with accompanying b-sides for “Bilingual” including “The Truck-Driver and His Mate”, a banger with crunchy guitars and loving imagery of two men dancing in the moonlight, the wistful “Hit and Miss”, the lovely “The Calm Before the Storm”, the sublime “The View From Your Balcony”, the hilarious “The Boy Who Couldn’t Keep His Clothes On” (“Yo, Louis, You ain’t dancing for all these men…I’m gonna tell your mother!”), and the genius “Delusions of Grandeur”. And that’s just the extra tracks from one album!

This collection continues with “Closer To Heaven” extras such as “Nightlife” and “Friendly Fire”, through “Release” to “Fundamental” with the jammin’ “The Resurrectionist” – about body snatchers in England in the 18th and 19th century who dug up bodies for anatomists – on and on through their amazing album “Yes”.

It’s a smorgasbord for us very hungry Pet Shop Boys fans. How lucky we’ve been to have them in our lives for the past 35 years!