Apr 262024
 

Run up that hill back to the beginning.

10. Blinker the Star — Love Comes Quickly


As far as cover albums go in terms of concept and content, Jordon Zadorozny aka Blinker The Star’s Arista was truly exceptional. An imaginary collaboration with legendary love-him-or-hate-him music exec Clive Davis and cheekily named after his label, it featured ten damn fabulous covers of songs by everyone from the Stones to Solange. Its most starry-eyed ‘n’ heart-clutching offering was this cover of the already unspeakably gorgeous 1986 classic “Love Comes Quickly.” The Blinker version is as moody and full of longing as the original, but enhanced with some gorgeously spaced-out guitar and a big full-bodied vocal. Lush and lovely, it will still make you fall. – Hope Silverman

9. Frank Bennett — Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)

The idea of “PSB go swing” isn’t new–ask those who have heard Paul Anka’s “It’s A Sin.” Frank Bennett, an Australian singer takes it a step further for this, which is why he is on this list and Anka isn’t. It isn’t unreasonable to assume this isn’t his birth name, and you’d be right, it being cobbled together from his two main inspirations. (I guess he could equally have been called Tony Sinatra). Is it for real? Is it pastiche? Who cares when it is done this well. – Seuras Og

8. The Moon Loungers — It’s a Sin

There are many, many covers of “It’s a Sin,” but there aren’t that many acoustic covers, let alone stunning acoustic covers (like this one). The Moon Loungers are a musical duo from Bristol, England. Vocally, the performance reminds me of Baroque pop: Two light yet slightly gruff and melancholy voices that aren’t trying too hard to sound any certain way. The strumming stays locked in, lead lines peppering in some bright pings. As a whole, The Moon Loungers version is nostalgic and timeless, and they make for an extremely impressive live performance. – Aleah Fitzwater

7. Sara Noxx — Rent

Sara Noxx adds a little more edge to the original’s synthy opening. It reminds me of some of Lady Gaga’s Fame Monster-era tracks, with its heavy beat and trumpet-like announcements. The lyrics are delivered more spoken-word than singing, especially in the verses. It’s deadpan, almost a blasé recount of the relationship, which gets to the core of the song’s storyline about the nature of the transactional. – Sara Stoudt

6. Chris Catalyst — Left to My Own Devices

Tennant and Lowe are from different sides of the North of England, and style themselves as English eccentrics, taking the peculiarities of life and turning it into high musical art. Chris Catalyst is another type of English eccentric from a Northern English city. Having toured with diverse group of bands, including Sisters of Mercy and Ugly Kid Joe, and even as a faceless ghoul in Ghost, he is now doing his own thing, and loves this celebration of that calling.

He gets the tone of the audio right, but the video adds a wonderful layer. Filmed on the main shopping street of his home town, Leeds, it captures the nature of that city. A mixture of fascination, filial support and humor (with some indifference to something that has nothing to do with them) pervades the piece, capturing an excellent snapshot of why people love their hometowns in the North. – Mike Tobyn

5. Hans Ünstern — Home and Dry

The cover of “Later Tonight” by Pola X that featured earlier in our countdown isn’t the only fabulous reinterpretation lurking within the plainly-titled Pet Shop Boys Covers album. Hans Ünstern’s “Home and Dry” is positively naked compared to the poppy, low-key-groovy original. It yearns. It aches. It plinks and plonks. It does all of the above in the most fetching way imaginable. – Hope Silverman

4. PECULATE — Love Is a Bourgeois Construct

Multi-instrumentalist Ben Norton credits the following writers for this piece: Norton/Pachelbel/Nyman/Tennant/Lowe/Purcell. By which he means that avant garde musician Michael Nyman took a theme from 17th century composer Henry Purcell, Tennant added lyrics of undergraduate angst to a disco theme from Lowe, and Norton embellished it with Pachelbel’s Canon. But even that convoluted tale in the writing credits cannot prepare you for what lies within this 12-minute epic.

After the cozy start from a vaguely recognized classical tune played on a harpsichord, there is death metal. Later there is a piano coda, reminiscent of the famous break in “Layla.” At one point there is a soft jazz interlude, a breather that doesn’t last long. Pachelbel’s Canon is back somewhere in the end/crescendo/denouement. In the video you can play along, if you like, as Norton has helpfully provided sheet music.

As a celebration of music and pure creativity, it is difficult to match. To love it might be Bourgeois, but it is earned. – Mike Tobyn

3. Autopulver — Being Boring

“Neil Tenant, at certain points in the ’80s, was writing the most beautiful songs. No one wants to hear frightening, terrifying songs about AIDS, but if they’re gay and they’ve lost friends they do want to hear people referred to, remembered, and honored. I think some of Neil’s work did that beautifully.”

That’s how George Michael eloquently described “Being Boring” back in 2007 on Desert Island Discs when he picked the track as one of his all-time favorite songs. Judging by their 1997 cover, Norwegian band Autopulver loved and worshipped “Being Boring” too. Their take is a timelessly joyous romp to soundtrack the most glittery of mosh pits. Equal parts New Order-y jangle, and fat-riffed stadium anthem, the group turns up the volume and adds a whole lotta hot sauce to the song’s wistful majesty. It is relentless…and endlessly lovable. – Hope Silverman

2. Claudia Brücken — King’s Cross

Claudia Brücken was the voice of German ’80s band Propaganda, her tones always reliably Teutonic, a Nico for that decade. Here that ice is considerably warmer than before, with just enough disconnect between the swirling ethereality of the background and her “electro-torch” delivery. It takes few if any liberties with the song, her voice being the main purpose of the cover. From her 2012 covers project, The Lost Are Found, it is unsurprising to discover the production hand on the tiller was that of sometime PSB producer Stephen Hague. – Seuras Og

1. GWAR — West End Girls

As they make clear at the start of the video, masked metal band GWAR didn’t want to cover “West End Girls.” The conceit of the AV Club’s late great Undercover series was that, every season, there was a set list of songs bands could choose from. The later the band came in, the fewer songs were left. So GWAR got stuck with “West End Girls.” Which generally wouldn’t bode well.

But here’s the thing: Pet Shop Boys didn’t want to cover “Always on My Mind” either. They got stuck with it for an Elvis tribute TV show—and created a classic. So, whether they know it or not, GWAR’s “West End Girls” is in that spirit. It goes hard and sounds great. It rocks as loudly as you’d hope, screeched out at top volume by a group of people wearing demon masks and cow udders.

But halfway through the video, with “West End Girls” completed, things get genuinely moving (not a word you associate with a band noted for spraying the audience with fake urine). Because, after a scorching guitar solo, they segue into poet Jim Carroll’s 1980 song “People Who Died,” which paid tribute to his friends and peers who had passed on. GWAR changes the lyrics though, paying tribute to their frontman Dave Brockie aka. Oderus Urungus. He had died of an overdose just months before this session. As one YouTube commenter put it, “The makeup running from tears at the end crushed me.” – Ray Padgett

Check out more installments in our monthly ‘Best Covers Ever’ series, including Kate Bush, Duran Duran, Willie Nelson, and more.

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  7 Responses to “The 30 Best Pet Shop Boys Covers Ever”

Comments (7)
  1. Good list but disappointed that Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine’s version of Rent didn’t make the cut. As much as I love original, Carter bring the griminess in relationship and with them using both members’ vocals to great effect I genuinely think it’s a better version. https://youtu.be/deEXgD15ABc?si=xHhyg667qa_O_PyH

  2. Technically I’m Not Scared was a cover when PSB recorded it, given that they wrote it for Patsy Kensit who released it under her band’s name, Eighth Wonder. I’m being picky though; it was a PSB single in all but name and vocal.

  3. Nice list, however I do miss some tracks. For instance the Robbie Wiliams cover “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing”, one of the b-sides to Let Me Entertain You. Liza Minnelli covered two Pet Shop Boys tracks for her 1989 Results album: “Tonight Is Forever” and “Rent”. Also very nice, but hard to find, is the Thirteen Senses cover of “Rent”. British boy band East 17 did a very decent cover of “West End Girls”. A very funky take on this song was done by Da Lukas, especially in the Mark Picchiotti remix version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taioUWorvGs

    • Absolutely. Robbie’s governor that is excellent but the best one is Do I Have To by Swedish singer Inga and it hasn’t even made the list. Tracey Thorn’s Kings Cross should be higher up the list as well as it’s excellent

  4. Oh, and I forgot this great take on “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” by German band Element of Crime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So343ZObqlY

  5. Olly Alexander from Years and Years appeared in the AIDS TV drama It’s a Sin and then covered PSB song of the same name before duetting with Elton John on it. Worth a look – https://youtu.be/Hk4eMIswunQ?si=1HLO1CN_l13KLgsf

  6. This is a good list, was surprised to find that Rent by Carter USM was left out.
    https://youtu.be/sdvpk48RRI8?feature=shared

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