How can you not love an album with a cover as iconic as this? Introspective was the first Pet Shops Boys album (and 25 years later still one of the few) not to feature one of them in some shape or form on the cover, indicating that this was an altogether different proposition.
And it was. Consisting of only 6 tracks it initially feels more like an EP, although as each track weighs in at at least 6 minutes, there is still plenty to enjoy. At the time, Neil Tennant marked Introspective as the end of their “Imperial Phase”, expressing disappointment when Domino Dancing, released shortly before the album, only charted at number seven while it’s two predecessors had managed to get to number one. In hindsight, he shouldn’t have worried, apparently Introspective is their second biggest selling album to date.
For a brand new album, only two of the songs are original to it. I Want a Dog had already appeared as a b-side, It’s Alright and Always on My Mind were covers, while I’m Not Scared was originally written for Pasty Kensit’s Eighth Wonder. This left only Domino Dancing and Left to my Own Devices to be considered as new material.
But in the back of my head I heard distant feet. Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat…
Introspective is the Pet Shops Boys at their widescreen best and it is my favourite of their albums. Although essentially a 12″ remix album the scope of the songs more than matches any of their more traditional efforts. There are two stand outs.
Trevor Horn’s paws are all over opener Left To My Own Devices with it’s multi-layered orchestral sweeps and stabs, urgent bass line and insistent Italian House piano riff, while Neil’s interior monologue owes a debt to A Day in the Life. This song apparently took months to get right. It was time well spent.
Always on My Mind/In My House is a rerecording of their contribution to an Elvis tribute tv programme in 1987 which became their best selling single to date and that year’s Christmas number 1. Compared to the earlier single release, this begins as a much starker affair, driven along by a bubbling, acid bass and house-y keyboard refrain missing from the original and giving more room for Neil’s vocals. However, just as the tracks begins to layer and you start to piece together the original, things get darker as the trance-y In My House appears…
Introspective proudly sits alone in the PSB canon. It’s not a conventional studio album like Please, Very, Bilingual, et al. It’s not a remix album (the Disco series) nor a compilation (Discography, Alternative, PopArt, Format….) or a live set (Concrete, Pandemonium). It just is what it is. Take it or leave it. But take it. Obviously.