Best laid plans and all that… Neil Tennant had been clear enough in the manifesto he sent to the duo’s manager as work started on what was to be the ninth Pet Shop Boys studio album, Fundamental: “The next album could be our first purely electronic album… very electro-pop… dirty fat synths… no pianos,” he wrote. “We actually said ‘no orchestra’,” recalled Chris Lowe.
What emerged, on 22 May 2006, was anything but that early vision. However, drenched instead in lush orchestration, Fundamental actually delivered a far grander, sweeping statement.
Listen to Fundamental here.
“It was a fruitful time”
Fundamental’s genesis dates back to Pet Shop Boys’ 2003 compilation, Pop Art, where a track submitted by American hitmaker Diane Warren, Numb, had been produced by Trevor Horn, working with Pet Shop Boys for the first time since 1989. That track stayed in the vault for the time being but became the catalyst for Horn being invited to work on further songs at the start of the Fundamental sessions. Initially hired just for the bigger numbers like The Sodom And Gomorrah Show, Horn ended up overseeing all 12 of the album’s songs.
Routinely billed as Pet Shop Boys’ most political album, there’s no missing the mannered observation threading its way through the set, with first single I’m With Stupid clearly satirising the controversial relationship between then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the US President George Bush. An obvious choice for single release, with its video featuring Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams, it sailed into the UK Top 10 – as was still routine for the band then – despite BBC bosses putting their foot down on the pair’s plan to perform the song on Top Of The Pops alongside dancers in satirical masks.