release date: 22 May 2006
chart: UK #5, US #150
Fundamental is the sixteenth album, the ninth of entirely new music, by the Pet Shop Boys. It was released in the United Kingdom, Europe, Japan, and Canada, and was released in late June 2006 in the United States.
The album was produced by the Pet Shop Boys and Trevor Horn and it features eleven new Pet Shop Boys compositions, and "Numb," written by Diane Warren (Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe originally planned to have "Numb" be one of two new tracks on PopArt, but opted instead for "Miracles" and "Flamboyant.")
The liner notes shows that the album is dedicated to two executed Iranian teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, who were hanged on July 19, 2005 for engaging in homosexual behavior.
The album has been noted for being more political than any other of the duo's albums to date; even the title, in one sense, is a reference to religious fundamentalism — portrayed here in a light, critical manner, which singer Neil Tennant attributes to the relatively relaxed status of religious freedom in the United Kingdom.
Specific contemporary issues discussed in the lyrics include tensions and fears in the United States caused by the War on Terrorism, addressed in songs such as "Psychological" and "Luna Park". ("Luna Park" being the name of various amusement parks around the world; see Luna Park for a list of such places). Other songs refer to the politics of the band's home country; "Indefinite leave to remain" refers to an immigration status in the United Kingdom, while "Integral" criticizes the British national identity card plans. (A statement from a band spokesman cites the issue as the reason that Tennant ceased his well-publicized support of Tony Blair's Labour Party.) The lyrics are fully masked and converted to the homage to the Yevgeny Zamyatin's legendary distopian book "We", in which the inhabitants of the future One State try to build The Integral in order to solve the cosmic equation and resolve all the problems in their One State. "I'm with Stupid", meanwhile, touches upon both countries by satirizing Blair's alliance with George W. Bush.
Other subject matters are dealt with as well. "Casanova in Hell" is about the 18th century historical figure Giacomo Casanova, and how he immortalized himself by writing memoirs about his history of sexual seduction of numerous women. Tennant refers to, specifically, the book Casanova's Homecoming by Arthur Schnitzler as his inspiration for the song. (It was sung by Rufus Wainwright at its very first live performance, at a private concert recorded for BBC Radio 2 at the Mermaid Theatre on May 8, 2006.) "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show" references two of the biblical cities of sin, Sodom and Gomorrah, in saying that to learn to 'go where angels fear to tread' (ie. to sin) is to learn to live freely.
"We had the title before we started making the album. It obviously came from 'fundamentalism' which is now the title of the dance album. We hear so much these days about people being fundamentalists - Christina fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists - and we though Fundamental would make a slightly provocative album title. Aslo, it's got the words 'fun' and 'mental' It's a bit like calling an album Very Pet Shop Boys. We thought while we were making it that we were probably doing something that was a fundamental Pet Shop Boys statement. But I don't think that much thought went into it at all - we just thought it was a good title." (Because they thought of the title so early on this time around, there is no long list of abandoned titles, as traditionally printed by Literally at this juncture. The only notes on Neil's computer of earlier titles are Fundamentally Pet Shop Boys and Pet Shop Boys Fundamentally. "So originally it was Fundamentally rather than Fundamental.")
Early in its creation, the Pet Shop Boys came up with a manifesto for what they intended to do which Neil typed out and sent to their manager, Dave Dorrell. This is what he wrote:
"The next album could be our firs purely electronic album. That said, one track already has an orchestra on it. But the lyrics will be funnier and cynical. I'm in the mood to write frivolous pop songs. I want people to say 'that is SO Pet Shop Boys' - they haven't done that in ages."
Catchy pop songs
...that sound very now
i. e. very electro-pop
and are about the world now
Don't be afraid of being moronic
More innudendo and humour
No human feel
Glitch and click
Dirty fat synths not clean
Glitch and click
A special edition of Fundamental was also released with a companion dance album Fundamentalism.
"Right from the start we thought it would be great to have more electronic sound dance mixes," says Neil. "And for ages we had though about putting 'Flamboyant' on the album because it was written at the same time as 'Luna Park' and 'Casanova in Hell', and at the same time as 'Numb' was recorded, and we felt it belongs to this group of songs. So we decided to comission electronic remixes and to put 'Flamboyant' on it."
"We asked all the remixers to keeps the song for a change," says Chris. "And they all did, which is quite an achievement."
There is one brand new song on Fundamentalism, "Fugitive", which they recorded with the producer Richard X, the British electronic pop producer whose career began by releasin seven-inch single mash-up combinations of other people's songs.
"It's about the personal cost of political convictions," says Neil.
"It's a modern day love story," says Chris.
"It's quite a sad song, I think," says Neil. "It's got a genuine sense of pathos and longing about it."
The version of Fundamentalism is an extended mix; there is also a shorter seven-inch version of "Fugitive" which is yet to be released.
Aside from "Flamboyant", represented here in a mix by Michael Mayer from the Kompakt label in Germany, Fundamentalism also includes one other song which has no equivalent on Fundamental, a version of "In private" (which the Pet Shop Boys originally wrote and produced for Dusty Springfield) with Elton John sharing the vocals with Neil. It was recorded when the Pet Shop Boys and Elton John did some recording in late 2003. "I really like the combination of voices," says Neil, "and I likve the production as well. It's from what I call our Nag Nag Nag phase." This version was co-produced and remixed by Stuart Crichton.
The other tracks on Fundamentalism are "Sodom", a version of "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show" by Trentemoller, a Swedish DJ and producer recommended by Pete Gleadall; an Alter Ego remix of "Psychological" ("It sounds fantastic in the chorus."); a Melnyk remix of "I'm with Stupid"; a remix of "Minimal" by Lobe, who previously appeared on Neil's Back To Mine disc ("Fascinatingly, he works in a psychiatric ward of a hospital and he did this mix in a psychiatric ward on his computer."); and "Gomorrah", a version of "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show" by the Cologne-based ambient electronic producer Dettinger. ("He changed the chords brilliantly.")
produced by: Trevor Horn
recording engineers: Tim Weidner, Robert Orton.
additional recording: Taz Mattar, Rob Smith.
original programming: Pete Gleadall
Lead vocals recorded by Pete Gleadall, apart from
"Twentieth Century" recorded by Tim Weidner and "Indefinitive Leave To Remain"
and "Luna Park" recorded by Robert Orton.
assistant engineers: Jay Buju Blatch, Delaina Sepko, Chris Waugh.
orchestra contractor: Isobel Griffiths Ltd.
Recorded and mixed at Sarm West Studios, London.
Mastered at Metropolis Studios by Tony Cousins and Tim Young.
All songs written by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe,
except "Numb" written by Diane Warren.