- Young British Artist Sam Taylor-Wood's creative output constantly has me flashing back to Andy Warhol's art, particularly his films, from her hour-long take of David Beckham sleeping, to her documentation of everyday life scenarios, through to her overarching interest in emotional isolation and alienation. Warhol's milieu was openly gay, and Taylor-Wood's subjects or collaborators are often gay men or gay icons: the aforementioned Beckham, Elton John and her ongoing work with Pet Shop Boys, which has included films of the PSB's live performances and vocals (as Kiki Kokova) on a cover of disco classic, Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby."
The gay/queer aesthetic is clearly an important one for Taylor-Wood, and this cover of British post-punk group The Passions' "I'm in Love with a German Film Star" has it all: obsessions with fame and poise, statuesque glamour,and heartbreaking distance from the worshipped object, all set to the Pet Shop Boys' now-trademark disco-pop. The video makes it even more explicit, with Taylor-Wood posing as Marlene Dietrich in suit and top hat—a woman playing a woman playing a drag king—stood absolutely still, like one of Warhol's Screen Tests, smoke curling slowly from her cigarette. Its beauty is partly due to its natural restraint and reserve—or its performance of restraint, more accurately—but it's also down to the way the track and the video play so openly with a multitude of signifiers. Pop single and/as art intervention? Welcome back to the '80s…
I've never really bought into the myth of the Pet Shop Boys, with the exception of "Being Boring" and "Paninaro," as they've always seemed to get the balance slightly wrong. The Lowe and Tennant double-act is intriguing, but the music and style is often too self-conscious, too arch: it's hard to raise your eyebrow when your entire head's drowning in irony. But "I'm in Love with a German Film Star" gets things very right. It's like a hyper-real, buffed and shined take on the Kompakt aesthetic, what Kompakt would sound like if they went truly pop, instead of hedging their bets. Crashing guitars are used as punctuation, but they're processed and softened while symphonic synth-strings intertwine with Taylor-Wood's vocals, which are just blank enough to be able to project your own emotional attachment or privation onto, a canvas for the listener.
The remixes on the CD are good, too. Mark Reeder's "Stuck in the 80's Mix" plumps the original up with a Mororder-esque, pulsing bass line, and in its combination of vaguely Morricone guitar twang, cheesy syndrums and Italo sentiment, it somehow lives up to the promise of the mix's title. (Indeed, as a member of Neue Deutsche Welle act Die Unbekannten and collaborator with Gudrun Gut's Malaria! back in the early 1980s, Reeder would know a thing or two about the broader cultural milieu from which The Passions' original arose.) After this, Gui Boratto's serviceable, techy remix acts as comedown—it's fine, and he makes great use of Taylor-Wood's disaffected vocal sighs, but it lacks the charm and character of the PSB's original and Reeder's playful remix. (Jürgen Paape's mix, sadly, is kept to the 12-inch version.) So just hit the return and go back to the top.
01. I'm in Love with a German Film Star (Original Radio Edit)
02. I'm in Love with a German Film Star (PSB Symphonic Mix)
03. I'm in Love with a German Film Star (PSB Symphonic Instrumental Mix)
04. I'm in Love with a German Film Star (Mark Reeder's Stuck In The 80's Mix)
05. I'm in Love with a German Film Star (Gui Boratto Mix)