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They knew you were gay before you knew yourself. Even if you are as hetero as they come (and I doubt you are…), the fairy godfathers of Pet Shop Boys sprinkle magic dust on you, like Tinker Bell grudgingly did for the Darling children at Peter Pan’s direction – making you queer just for a little while. Then you fly away to Neverland on a blast of flirtation, shame and impeccable taste.
A longing for acceptance poignantly blended with a fierce self-indulgence is not just for gays anymore. Infiltrate, then conquer: as soaked in queer remorse as “It’s a Sin” may be, it gets all the fun-lovin’ kids to boogie like fools on the dance floor. Of course, the Boys let their rainbow flag fly more and more openly as they aged; their earliest hits seemed less concerned with sexual orientation than with class warfare. Between the idiotic call to capitalist arms “Opportunities” and the fuck-you to Thatcherism “West End Girls,” you’d think those Pet Store Men were commies. What has any of this to do with being gay? Aside from that fact that the West End girls might in fact be boys, subsequent songs trace the connection between shallow consumerism, instant gratification, and post-Stonewall queer culture, from “Rent” (“You dress me up, I’m your puppet”) to “For Your Own Good” (“Why don’t you stay/With the lover you need and not the devil you pay”).
Pet Shop Boys’ enjoyed their last Top 10 hit on the US pop charts over 20 years ago (weirdly, it was that Willie Nelson cover), but continue to score where it counts – in dance clubs. There in the dark, with lights flashing over their heads and alcohol providing a nice, warm buffer, gays and those who envy them work out the layers of desire and terror that make just walking down the street every day a test of strength. Anything could happen: when you throw a bunch of art queens, club kids, and college dykes into a sweaty room together, all bets are off. But not to worry: those Pet Shop blokes will make sure you get home in one piece.