Books

The tour also results in some strange star encounters. At a post-Oscar Hollywood party, Tennant meets Steven Spielberg, Young M.C. (a Pet Shop Boys devotee), and a severely sloshed Joni Mitchell. And no one is more shocked (and impressed) than Tennant and Lowe when Axl Rose appears backstage to announce he once yelled, "The Pet Shop Boys suck!" at an MTV Video Awards but now is a big fan who's turned Trent Reznor onto the group.

Unlike Boy George, the Pet Shop Boys are acutely self-conscious: Chris constantly compares the tour to This Is Spinal Tap; Neil declares "I'm totally bored by us" near the end. Heath's book is never tiresome, though. It highlights -- like Jon Savage's recent interview accompanying the new B-side retrospective Alternative -- the duo's knack for turning common conversational snippets into great lyrics. It also highlights their skill at lampooning contemporary stardom (someone should play "Shameless" for Courtney Love) and the mechanics of the music industry ("We should call our fan club 'Fan Base,' " says Chris). The only thing missing from this book is the group's heart, but it's apparent on any of the duo's recent LPs. Unfortunately, only their (gay, male) "fan base" is aware of this. Such is the Pet Shop Boys' dilemma: They're the greatest pop act in the world, but pop music isn't popular anymore.

Boy George performs Sat, Dec. 16, at the Fillmore in S.F.; call 346-6000.
-- Johnny Ray Huston

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