Love Is All, Pet Shop Boys - remix albums

Holly Cruise 12/02/2008

Love Is All - Love Is All Mixed Up (EMI)
Pet Shop Boys - Disco 4 (Parlophone)

A remix album is a strange thing. Even more so than a Best Of it suffers from lack of coherency, a lack of solid identity. Being constructed from either one source (say the debut album from Swedish shout-poppers Love Is All) or by one source (a compilation of recent remixes by and for the evergreen Pet Shop Boys) it's hard to see how the underlying idea which ties a good album together cannot be diluted. It makes for an interesting contrast between these two albums. Certainly when listening initially it's Disco 4 which seems to be more coherent, more consistent. It sounds like a Pet Shop boys album. The Killers, who were always halfway to being like PSB anyway, are given a big shiny version of 'Read My Mind' which gets rid of all the rough Americanisms of Sam's Town and thus sounds more like the stuff off debut Hot Fuss, which most people prefer anyway. Similarly strong minded women Madonna and Yoko Ono are given sleek disco rearrangements, even though Madonna's original version of Sorry was sleek and disco to start off with. But the problem is that when the Pet Shop Boys remix, they make a song their own, almost to the point of going a little too far. Their trademark sound is splashed liberally, showing less variation and imagination than their own material. You know exactly what to expect from almost every song, and some drag on too long. It's odd that the most ingenious track on here, a remix of German metallers Rammstein, is last on here, certain to be ignored by many who purchase this but become a bit overwhelmed by the length.

In contrast Love Is All Mixed Up is just that - all over the show. Some are only remixes by virtue of there being traces of Josephine Olausson's shouty insistent vocals. FrYars in particular has essentially just remade Felt Tip himself, his sinister but fruity baritone booming all over it, then thrown Josephine over the top to justify the notion of remix. It's ace. Also ace is the thundering Optimo remix of Busy Doing Nothing which, in another fairer world, is a dancefloor smash, or distinctive remixes by Hot Chip and Maps. As an album it only barely holds itself together. The tracklisting is a bit strange, the jolt between Optimo's Busy Doing Nothing and The Bees' skronky rinky dink jazz Make Out Fall Out Make Up is particularly disconcerting for the listener, and it leaves one of the best tracks, Hot Chip's, at the end, like Disco 4 does with Rammstein. However when it's good, it's very very good. Justifying a remix album for a band who are hardly household names is always going to demand something special and there's enough here to do just that. The jarring diversity throws up some nice contrasts, and actually adds to the original album, picking out things which might seem drowned in Love Is All's stylistic template. FrYars' menace is there in the original, although the remix is needed to bring them forward. Ditto the sweep of Maps reveals a depth which the lo-fi whirr of the original masks.

Neither album is satisfying whole, but both offer an array of songs which on their own are worth listening to. The remixer's desire to stamp their own identity can leave them vulnerable, as the Pet Shop Boys have found, to creating too many versions of their template. It also makes albums of multiple remixers a tempestuous and diverse place, something which may not appeal to everyone. It's the unfortunate nature of remix albums, but the end results are worth the effort.

Love Is All Mixed Up - 3/5

Disco 4 - 2.5/5