Yes, Actually

My interview with Chris Lowe and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys is now online at From my intro:

I love them because they can write for Kylie Minogue and champion Dusty Springfield even as they write a score for Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin for the Dresden Symphony Orchestra. I love them because no man sings as a woman as well as Neil Tennant; because no techno master is as unashamed of disco or as contemptuous of rock ‘n’ roll as Chris Lowe; because they have written the simplest song about gay love, “Nervously,” and the most wrenching account of gay death, “Your Funny Uncle.”

Their music is about big things -- Casanova and Catholicism, terror and religion, politics and pretension -- but it is guided by an intelligence that doesn’t balk at fun.

Here's my conversation with Neil on the terror war, America and Obama:

Your songs, in a way, don’t really offer solutions.

NT: No, and they don’t intend to. Otherwise, one would be a politician.

They do, however, offer a critique. For example, “Luna Park,” on Fundamental, is set in a fairground. Is that a metaphor for the West in this period?

NT: It’s probably America. Someone is looking at a fairground at night and all the lights and people screaming on the Big Dipper and the rifle range and all the rest of it. I mean it’s not a particularly original metaphor, but it’s about why people enjoy being scared and whether that is used politically. I think it is done politically, and I think America at that particular time -- the American president and his cohorts -- were doing it.

Although, obviously, the original terror was utterly understandable.

NT: The original terror was understandable, yes. There was a moment, at that period, when America had the moral leadership of the world and threw it away.

And Obama is a belated attempt to regain it at some level.

NT: Yeah, I think he probably is.

You have your usual skepticism.

NT: No, no, no, we love Obama. We’re crazy about Obama in Europe. We’re all Obama crazy. Everyone thinks he’s sexy. Lovely teeth, as my mother would say.

And he glides. He has a great physical fluency about him.

NT: He actually would have made a very good cardinal, that sort of gliding across St. Peter’s Square thing he does. He’s got that kind of bearing. He’s just brought back dignity, which is an amazing thing to put back on the cultural agenda. There’s a slightly corny song on our album called “More Than a Dream,” which was written when Obama was slugging it out with Hillary in the primaries, and you could feel the potential for the world to change away from the sort of paranoia -- justified as it may be -- to something different.