release date: 1 April 2002
chart: UK #7, US #73
After the release of their previous studio album, Nightlife, it was originally planned that they would release a greatest hits collection in the autumn of 2000 with the two new tracks "Positive Role Model" and "Somebody Else's Business" Whilst recording the new songs for the hits collection it was decided to produce a full studio album instead.
Release has been the least commercially successful of all Pet Shop Boys albums to date, though still managed to sell 800,000 copies worldwide. On its first release, a limited run of metallic effect embossed sleeves were available in a choice of four colours: grey, blue, pink or red. In the USA, this limited run also came with a bonus CD including remixes and new tracks.
The album marked a significant departure from previous work, being guitar and piano-driven with little evidence of synthesisers present. The emerging material was emotional and guitar-influenced. They worked with Michael Brauer (who had previously worked with artists such as Coldplay) and Johnny Marr.
The original version of the album had 15 tracks including the b-sides "Between two islands", "Searching for the face of Jesus", "Always", "I didn't get where I am today" and a piano version of "London" entitled London (Genuine Piano Mix) which later ended up on Disco 3.
The directors for all three music videos for the album's singles are photographers by trade: Wolfgang Tillmans directed "Home and dry", Bruce Weber directed "I get along" (following his previous work on the "Being boring" and "Se a vida é" videos), and Martin Parr directed "London". The Tillmans video, consisting almost entirely of footage of mice filmed at Tottenham Court Road tube station in the London Underground, is considered to have significantly undermined the commercial potential of the lead single, due to being deemed nearly unplayable by MTV and other music video channels.
Perhaps partly because of the modest commercial success of this album, and perhaps partly because of the habit of distancing themselves musically from their most recent work, Tennant and Lowe have since returned to their dance roots. One year after the release of Release, Pet Shop Boys released Disco 3 which included remixes of some of the songs from Release along with new material that they were working on at the time of writing/producing material for Release.
The album title was suggested by photographer and Turner prize-winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans: "He said, 'you should call it something like Release' and we said, 'Oh... that's quite good'." Even so, they didn't make up their mind until the last possible moment. "I think it works, because there is a sense of emotional release about the way the album works," says Neil. "And it is the Pet Shop Boys new release. And what really convinced me is when our keyboard technician Paul Beckett saw the artwork and said, "Oh, I get Release - it's because the flowers are releasing pollen...". I guess some people think it sounds slightly sexual too." Amongst the other titles considered were Whatever, From outer space, Lovely, Tragic, Transition, Subtext ("that's a comment on the theatre, that one," comments Chris), You can't have one without the other, Girlfriend, Lovelife, Sometimes, Depth through surface, Touché, Distortions, Position ("Not a bad title, that," notes Neil), Whenever, The death of disco, Narrative, Hinterland, Alias, Mainstream, Decision, London, Approximately, The exception, Only, A walk across a field, Never anyone but you and Home. The final two were seriously considered and the album sleeve was actually designed when the title was Home.
"We liked it because it was the opposite of Nightlife," Chris explains. "It was an album to listen to at home. It wasn't a disco album."
The title Home was finally scuppered when their previous manager Jill Carrington noted in an e-mail that it sounded like a Garth Brooks album title.
The Release sleeve is designed by the New York designers Visionaire, who last year designed the Wotapalava logo. "We really liked that," says Chris, "because it was something completely different from anything we'd done before."
This is the first Pet Shop Boys sleeve not designed by Mark Farrow since their first Parlophone release. "We were keen to experiment with all the details on this album," says Neil, "and we'd worked with Mark Farrow and his company for every album, so I found it quite difficult break to make, but I think we'll probably work with Farrow again."
Visionaire came up with the idea of having four different sleeves showing four different flowers, each in a different colour. "We thought it would look very beautiful to have this row of four flowers in different colours in record shops," says Neil. These sleeves are external slipcases. "They're embossed, or something like that," Neil explains, "so that they're slightly 3-D." The CD case inside the slipcase says 'Pet Shop Boys Release' on white opaque plastic.
"They said they chose flowers because they thought the album was beautiful and they wanted the sleeve to look beautiful as well," explains Chris.