The boys are back in town

The Pet Shop Boys refuse to beg your forgiveness

for their 12-year absence from our stages.

In fact, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe want to know why we haven’t asked them back before now.

‘Yes, what is Australia’s excuse for this?’ the cheeky Tennant asks. ‘We carry on regardless.’

The enduring pop music supremos were quick to say yes – for the right money, of course – to joining the inaugural V Festival line-up. But Tennant is keen to showcase another of their labours here within the next few years, and believes their Battleship Potemkin project would be perfectly staged on Sydney Harbour. The Pet Shop Boys duo wrote a new score of orchestral and electronic music to accompany a screening of the 1925 silent film, The Battleship Potemkin, by Sergei Eisenstein in Trafalgar Square.

‘There’s a lot of discussion about doing it on the harbour; it would be so great. There are a lot of logistics to work out but even as we were composing the music, we thought we would have to do it in Sydney. It’s such a lovely project and we have done it in eight cities now, starting in London in 2005.’

While Tennant is right to be miffed about the lack of chart activity they have enjoyed here in recent years, the duo’s most recent album, Fundamental, will no doubt enjoy a festival-led resurgence.

And then there’s Robbie Williams. His latest single, She’s Madonna, was a collaboration between the long-time friends. Tennant is quite excited when informed the download-only single is copping a right flogging on the Australian airwaves.

‘I didn’t know that . . . that’s very nice to hear,’ he laughs. ‘Actually it’s getting a lot of radio play here too. That was a good one to do; we’ve known Robbie since before Take That was successful, he must have been 17 when we first met him. In the early ’90s, we had a record label called Spaghetti and signed this artist called Cicero who supported Take That on a very early tour. Chris and I went to see Cicero in Cambridge and stayed on to watch Take That, and actually Take That were a great outfit. They were so energetic and fun and all the poor girls were screaming. They were quite sweet in talking about us and when Robbie left we stayed in touch.’

The single was inspired by the trio of mates discussing the possibility of forming a pop super group.

‘He wanted to start a super group with us,’ Tennant laughs. ‘We couldn’t decided on who the fourth person would be – it could only be someone enormous. And Robbie said ‘How about Madonna?’ We spent an afternoon writing together, with the Madonna angle his idea and then Chris and I finished the song off.’

Regardless of the fickle fortunes of chart success, the Pet Shop Boys not only remain relevant but excitingly creative. Even the briefest of their online bios offers evidence of their massive influence on contemporary pop music – its sound, its look and its sense of humour.

Tennant insists – as does the duo’s legion of fans – that Fundamental deserves its moment in the spotlight. ‘You’ve been around for 20 years and you’re still making really good albums but some people expect you to not be,’ he says. ‘I think Fundamental is as good as anything we have done and even better sometimes and I think it’s done quite well. The charts are vaguely interesting again about downloads. I was always against people downloading things for free because I think it’s a weird thing to get used to, the idea you can steal something and that’s all right. It’s a funny time for the music business because of all this transition but it feels like a great time for music and for the Pet Shop Boys, it is a good time. You go through stages where you feel totally irrelevant but we feel very much like we belong in pop right now.’

Their popularity among their peers remains at an all time high. Madonna was quick to enlist their remixing services for her single, Sorry.

The Pet Shop Boys’ loyal Australian fans will be rewarded with an audio-visual spectacular which covers the gamut of their career from such hits as West End Girl through to I’m With Stupid, a single whose video clip featured a hilarious impersonation of the duo by the Little Britain lads.

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