Most brothers of the groom use their best man’s speech as an excuse for some mild teasing and emotional childhood tales.

Right, boys, you're on again!

The media are gathering, the mobiles are ringing, the salmon buffet is ready. It's the big pop event of the month. No, not the Spice Girls, but the Monks of Downside, gearing up to release their latest album. Janie Lawrence pulls up a pew.

The intelligent consumer: dear annie

I am a consultant working in Accident and Emergency medicine. As such, I have to appear smart, yet my medical practice can involve blood splashes and other body fluids. I detest suits, especially jackets, and work in a fairly warm environment. I tend to wear M&S black trousers and cheap, white, short-sleeve shirts and tie. I would be happy to lose the tie, but it is expected of me. It can get in the way when I'm stitching. Could you suggest a smart yet practical and washable solution to my problem.


Girlfrendo, Reading Festival, Doc Martens stage (0181-963 0940/ 0541 500 044) tomorrow

The million-dollar couplet machine

Murray Lachlan Young, Wildean stand-up poet, is going global.

Pet Shop Boys Savoy Theatre, London

Try walking into a record company to sell them the idea of two average-looking blokes on stage wearing shapeless Communist-style clothes, with the baseball- hatted one standing motionless behind an ancient keyboard and the balding one singing in a monotone, and you'll discover at first hand how efficient their security staff are.

ROCK : Tennant needs that little extra

The band's name is outside in smart pale neon. Your tickets are taken by people who are neither seven feet tall nor seven feet wide. You walk through bars that don't specialise in beakers of lager, past ushers selling chic little programmes and tubs of ice-cream, past Janet Street- Porter. And finally, into the 950-capacity auditorium, to take your seat, and then you stand up again as someone squeezes past you to take theirs. For their first UK concerts in six years,the Pet Shop Boys have hired the Savoy Theatre for a fortnight, and recast the pop concert as a West End cultural experience. For the regular gig-goer, this novelty alone was almost worth the ticket price.

He's my Squeeze from suburbia

England Is Mine: pop life in Albion from Wilde to Goldie by Michael Bracewell, HarperCollins, pounds 18; Is pop music the key to a lost Arcady of Englishness? In your dreams, says D J Taylor

Pet Shop Boys bring pop to Savoy

The East End boys have made it to the West End at last. The Pet Shop Boys, the pop duo famed for their hit West End Girls, are to perform at the Savoy Theatre, the venue that was home to Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

Pop: 'We refuse to die gracefully'

Erasure don't care about their image, have no credibility and write songs that all sound the same. According to their fans. So what makes them tick? Ryan Gilbey follows them on tour

Idol thoughts

Holly Johnson loves The Beatles; Bob Geldof loves the Stones; Lou Reed loves Ornette Coleman (Brian Eno loves Lou Reed); Pet Shop Boys love the Bee Gees. And they've all made something of it for a good cause. On 4 February at the Saatchi Gallery in London their works of homage will be auctioned in aid of the charity War Child. Emma Daly found out who made what how. Photographs by John Voos

FAN'S EYE VIEW No 196 Bristol football

Down here in the West Country we may lack the cultural sophistication of the inhabitants of "The Eternal City", or "The Smoke" but we beat them pointless when it comes to pithy nicknames for a hometown. "Bristol - the Graveyard Of All Ambition" may not be the sort of slogan to launch a car sticker campaign, but it's fair comment in a city where dynamism is spending less than three hours in a sunny beer garden. Mrs Emerson would like it here, especially when she realises how near we are to the golden sands of Weston- super-Mare.

Suede's frontman was into British pop (that's Kate Bush, not The Beatles) long before Brit pop. So where's he been for 18 months?

the interview BRETT ANDERSON TALKS TO BEN THOMPSON photograph by david sandison


`We've always tried to make it look effortless, like something we dashed off.' In a rare interview, the Pet Shop Boys share the secrets of making perfect pop


Sting: Mercury Falling (A&M, CD/LP/tape). This is the sound of a master craftsman at work. Sting may be perceived as too solemn and rain- foresty to be fashionable, and he's unlikely to be name-checked by Oasis, but his invention leaves his contemporary, Paul Weller, far behind. The overall air of these 11 Summoner's Tales is freshly rural, evoking woollen waistcoats and steam-breathed horses crunching through dewy leaves. The smart lyrics are both folky and precisely contemporary, the enchanting music both medieval hey-nonny-noing and nourishing Van Morrison-style r'n'b. Along the way Sting injects a country twang, a twist of French jazz, and some drummer-maddening time signatures. Without putting a foot wrong, he strolls through the lot with elegant ease. And he keeps Pato Banton locked out of the studio. Nicholas Barber

Bowie and Blair band together

When David Bowie was chosen to receive this year's Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, the Labour leader, Tony Blair, was not the most obvious immediate choice to present him with it last night.
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