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D ark, lush autumnal melancholia pervades the whole of this album, from the small-town claustrophobia of This must be the place I waited years to leave to the deathly finality of Jealousy. Behaviour is a picture of two people taking stock of their lot, as many of the friends that helped determine the people they’ve become pass away. Being boring, though largely ignored at the time, is a beautiful attempt to harness that inconsolable loss and turn it into sublime pop music.

Melody Maker, 1993.

B ehavior was a retreat from the deep dance textures of Introspective, as it picked up on the carefully-constructed pop of Actually. In fact, Behavior functions as the Pet Shop Boys’ bid for mainstream credibility, as much of the album relies more on pop-craft than rhythmic variations. Although its a subtle manouever, it would have been rather disasterous if the results weren’t so captivating. Tennant takes this approach seriously, singing the lyrics instead of speaking them. That doesn’t necessarily give the album added emotional baggage—all of the distance and detachment in the duo’s music is not a hinderance, it’s part of the concept—but it does result in an ambitious and breathtaking pop album, which manages to include everything from the spiteful How can you expect to be taken seriously? to the wistful Being boring.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide To Rock.

A  bold ambitious album, Behavior is the Pet Shop Boys’ crowning achievement. A veritable pop symphony in miniature, it works its magic through compositional subtlety, lyrical eloquence, and thematic reach. (...) Facing the end of an era of freedom, the duo has crafted words and music that are enveloped in an inescapable sadness. Yet the album is carried forward by an artistic conviction and an analytical intellect that seeks to set events, both great and small, in some historical, comprehensible context. Behavior opens with the tour de force of Being boring. After a sweeping instrumental fanfare, foreshadowing the cinematic scope of the album, the song builds around a quote from Zelda Fitzgerald about the Twenties literary crowd, “We were never feeling bored, because we were never being boring.” Tennant and Lowe cover a lot of ground in the next few minutes, zeroing in on friendship, solidarity, celebration, and loss while implicitly defending the antic, bohemian lifestyle of happier times. The freewheeling Seventies are fondly recalled with musical allusions to Eurodisco (appropriately, the ubiquitous German disco engineer and producer Harold Faltermeyer produced Behavior). Fast forward to the present, with the world forever altered: “All the people I was kissing / Some are here and some are missing / In the 1990’s.”

Parke Puterbaugh, Stereo Review, 1991.

C ongratulations to Harold Faltermayer, best known for Axel F, who helped the Pets. The PSBs have nice tunes, which is kind of unfashionable. The first song on the album, Being boring, is a catchy tune in a kind of way that flatters your ears. It has a rich sound, and the Pets know how to take advantage of sound technology in a divine way, so you can forget about all the developments that occured in the last two years, as they clearly have.

The ten songs are not very upbeat because you can find melancholy in almost any of them. The tone is set in Being boring, which is set to be the second single from the album.

Yosi Harsonski, Ma’ariv Lanoar, 1991.

I t’s no accident that a number of the Pet Shop Boys’ videos have met with some resistance at MTV because they departed from certain norms of video production. In the video for Domino dancing—which features talk of wanting “a love of a different kind”—two guys are fighting over a girl. But the camera soon becomes interested primarily in the two guys, who, at the end of video, are seen stripped to the waist, jostling with each other on a beach, to the point where, caught in each other’s arms, they are pictured falling to the sand. The video cuts the scene of falling short and repeats it four times. They never reach the beach: they just can’t stop falling. Something in the camera’s insistence on watching two half-naked men fall in each other’s arms was a bit much for MTV, who apparently would cut off the ending of the song. MTV would not confirm this in telephone conversations, but they did have to deny that they did and do not play the video I want to address in bringing this analysis to a conclusion. The most spectacular staging of a certain sexual revolution occurs in the latest video from the new album: the track entitled Being boring. The opening sequence of the video, shot by Bruce Weber, is thoroughly atypical in its focus on the male nude body: indeed it is unheard of in the imaginary of mainstream music video. It is, after all, in Madonna’s words, “a hetero world”—a phrase coined not only in reference to MTV. And if, in the largely hetero world of MTV, the gaze is male (as Laura Mulvey has argued for the cinematic apparatus generally), then attention to a statuesque male nude—cavorting with a dog, no less—cannot but be coded as homoerotic. Yet one senses the reductiveness of calling this video “gay”—and not just because it goes on to display any number of relationships, a good many of them “hetero,” some of them gay, some sheerly narcissistic and autoerotic, some seeming to resist any names of this order.

The exhuberance of this video is all the more striking when we become aware that it is an elegy for an AIDS victim, as signalled in the lines: “All the people I was kissing / Some are here and some are missing / In the nineteen nineties”. Against all odds, this video text is an extraordinarily affirmative and exhilirating elegy, at once contemporary and a flashback to a time when sex need not have been qualified as safe. Both the song and video have very complex structures of temporality, some sense of which can be glimpsed in the refrain of the lyrics:

    We were never being boring,
    We had too much to fight for ourselves.
    We were never being boring
    We dressed up in thoughts and thoughts make amends.
    We were never holding back, worried that
    Time would come to an end.
    We were always hoping that, looking back,
    You could always rely on a friend.

The almost vertiginous movement backward, forward, and back again in time is supplemented by its eccentric grammar (“We were never being boring”—a phrase that yokes together finitude and infinity) and by visual images like that of a teenage boy at a resolutely 90’s party flashing his jacket open to reveal a Hendrix teeshirt. Moreover, the free-form dancing proper to a party stands in marked contrast to the mainstream video choreography in the mode, say, of Janet Jackson or Paula Abdul. Its uninhibited character has virtually an anarchic effect, given the regimentation of the competing models. The song begins by recalling a “cache of old photos” and “invitations to teenage parties”, the motifs of which are both taken up into the ultra-contemporary texture of the video, with its black and white footage recalling but not reduplicating the old photos, also no doubt in black and white. At once nostalgic and not nostalgic, the dizzying sequences of the video cite the past, even as the camera and the words know they could never coincide with that past. But what could these scenes of abandon, this “revolutionary” moment have to do the structures of infinity we have been underlining in the work of the Pet Shop Boys? If we take the heterosexual relation as the dominant model and assign it, say, the number one, then the move beyond the heterosexual model opens up, at least momentarily, the sense of all the configurations beyond it, even if we know that, numerically, the relations are not exactly infinite: the list doesn’t quite go on forever. We have been stressing the infinity and unending character of the Pet Shop Boys work—in the structure of their songs, in the thematics concerns of love, music, and revolution, even in their very grammar—but the Being boring video is virtually the only place in their unfinished corpus where one is really confronted with thinking of an end. Even in their recent song titled The end of the world, the refrain undercuts precisely that notion: the chorus repeats “It’s just a boy or a girl, it’s not the end of the world.” In Being boring, it’s a different story, with its invocation of all those who would be here, were it not for AIDS. We have to think of an end in absolute terms, but even here not perhaps of an absolute end. For to return to the terms of It’s alright, the music goes on and on forever—it has to go on on—because in the logic of the Pet Shop Boys, silence equals death.

Ian Balfour, York University.

T he grandeur and uplift of the past has been replaced by a pervasive mood of pondering sadly. And, (perhaps) unpardonably in a duo who have staunchly defended the potency of teen music and the desirability of an audience of screaming girls, Behaviour is inescapably laden with a particularly thirtysomething variety of wistfulness. The smell of defeat, not wet knickers.

Curiously, the opening two songs, where Tennant’s nostalgic, slippers-on, armchair brooder’s perspective is most clearly set out, are two of the least unredemptively maudlin. Being boring is a scrapbook flick through his journey from expectant Northern youth in the ’70s to a doubting ’90s adulthood, burdened by unease and a sense of loss (of close friends).

Roger Morton.

T his song was inspired by a quote by Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of American author F. Scott Fitzgerald (“...someone’s wife, a famous writer in the 1920s...”), “She was never bored because she was never boring”. Neil uses it as the springboard for a heartfelt rumination on the path his life has taken, rendered bittersweet by his success and fame amidst the personal and social devastation wrought by AIDS. The Pet Shop Boys have cited this melancholy but gorgeous track as one of their finest achievements. In a slightly truncated version, it served as the second single released from the album. Its accompanying video, shot by Bruce Weber, was notorious for its brief glipses of male rear nudity.

Wayne Studer, Ph. D, 2001.

B ehaviour marks a bit of a departure—or, more appropriately, an evolution—in style for the Pet Shop Boys, whose previous albums are largely comprised of hungry and often slightly seedy songs with a high emphasis production-wise on the band’s beloved club roots. Those dance elements are still on display here, but there’s a much more mature feel to Harold Faltermeyer’s production.

The songs themselves have moved on from neediness and seediness to far more adult themes; opening tracks Being boring and This must be the place I waited years to leave, with their lyrics of reminiscence, fond and otherwise, set the tone for the next 50 minutes. There are gently melodic songs of betrayal—To face the truth, Only the wind—and more upbeat variations on the same theme in So hard and the string-laden Jealousy and a touching tale of first attraction in Nervously. The album’s only real downer comes in the pompous shape of My October symphony, a wincingly pretentious thing which suggests the band have fallen prey to the kind of po-faced muso nonsense they poke fun at in How can you expect to be taken seriously?

Behaviour is possibly the best album for fans of Neil and Chris’ more circumspect outpourings; what it lacks in upbeat anthems and disco production it more than makes up for in intelligent, introspective song writing. And with a bonus CD of 12 remixes and B-sides, it’s a must-have for anyone who likes their pop meticulously crafted and shrewdly lyrical.

Rikki Price,

B ehaviour came out after the height of the Pet Shop Boys’ commercial peak (listen to Introspective and hear the sound of successful group in their “imperial” phase, as Neil Tennant put it) and is not what most people most readily associate with them, but to me it’s clearly their best album. The sound is warm and almost polite with little of the bombast of the likes of It’s a sin or Left to my own devices and the songs have a greater sense of melancholy than their previous work. What makes this album stand out is the beauty of the songs. It starts with Being boring, one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded, gloriously melodic and uplifting yet tinged with sadness, and this sets the tone for the rest of the album. The production perfectly complements the songs about love and loss and betrayal, Neil Tennant’s voice has never before or since sounded so touching. It’s often seen as their “mature statement” yet it’s the last album they did before they started to repeat themselves and sound contrived; there’s still a real edge to Behaviour that they haven’t really shown since. Buy this if you like the Pet Shop Boys, though I don’t know whether it’s the ideal introduction for someone who’s just heard a few of their singles.

Leamington Spa,, 2000.

T he follow-up to the heavily dance-orientated Introspective, Behaviour is the Pet Shop Boys using a more subtle twist, a delicate palette of sounds infinitely pleasing to the ear.

The whole album is an immaculate unison of Neil Tennant’s exquisite lyrics to the unique dance styles of the Pet Shop Boys. But—as with no other of their albums—the tone of Behaviour is notably calm, subtle and smooth. Though Being boring has the typically depressive Pet Shop Boys undertones, other tracks are a little more positive, notably How can you expect to be taken seriously? and The end of the world.


T his album works wonderfully well as a coherent whole, trading dance and club music for elegiac, mysterious pop. The songs are immacuately constructed and recorded. Tennant’s voice is in especially fine form. Being boring may be the PSB’s best individual track, with its wistful melody and lyrics about spending one’s time wisely. Honestly, every track has something to offer. The overall feel of the album is very low-key and melancholic, finding the Boys in a reflective mood at the start of the 90’s. Essential listening. In my opinion, it is the second best Pet Shop Boys album, with Very being their masterpiece. The bonus disc included with the new “remastered” version is definitely worth while, packed end-to-end with interesting outtakes, B-sides and other oddities.

Rob Damm,, 2001.

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