Thankfully there are some artists who still believe in B-sides. While we await the September 11th release of the Pet Shop Boys' eleventh studio album Elysium, the first single "Winner" has been released with three new, non-album tracks included. "Winner" has grown on me, it's not nearly one of their greatest lead-off singles, but the chorus is unmistakably PSB.
The B-sides are what we're really concerned about though, and "A Certain 'Je ne sais quoi'" is essential and the strongest track on here. It's so strong, it should have made it to Elysium, as there are a few weak tracks on the album that this would serve as a major improvement over. A dance track with guitar lines and looping keyboards, this song alone is worth the cost of the single.
"The Way Through The Woods" is a bit of a curiosity, based on a Rudyard Kipling poem. With outdoor sounds invoking the title of the song, it builds as a literal trip through the woods lyrically and musically. Electronic beats burst through the orchestration in the final minute. It's the weakest of the three new songs, but still an interesting listen. Songs like this fulfill the intention of B-sides, a place for the artist to experiment and put something out that may not fit the album concept.
The single closes out with a faithful cover of the Bee Gees classic "I Started A Joke", serving as a tribute to the late Robin Gibb. Neil Tennant delivers a wonderful vocal performance, capturing the spirit of Gibb's voice beautifully.
The "Winner" single was released in the U.S. August 7, 2012 as a download only. A CD single has been released in the UK for those collectors, like me, who still demand a physical product.