Everything Means Something

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2012
Original album - Elysium
Producer - Andrew Dawson, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

While I wouldn't exactly call it "prog rock," there's no denying a certain prog element to this thoroughly atypical PSB track. For one thing, its metrical timing shifts back and forth (Chris has described it as "odd," with Neil adding, "very odd") between stanzas in heavily syncopated 4-time and a chorus in what sounds to my ears like 6-time or some other variation on triple-meter, precisely the sort of metrical playfulness that was stock in trade for bands during the 1970s heyday of prog. There's also the sheer density of the song's arrangement, which steadily builds throughout, with multiple layers of keyboards, guitar (and/or guitar samples), and vocal effects, such as what might be described as anticipatory pre-echo. (There must be some other technical term for it, but I don't know what it is.) The steady rhythmic undercurrent of jagged synth, percussion, and bass lend a vaguely menacing air to the proceedings. And I especially like the brief bass solo between the second and third verses, sonically reminiscent of Yes bassist Chris Squire's work around the time of their late-seventies album Tormato.

Neil has come right out and said that the lyrics are autobiographical, based on an argument that "pretty much did happen." Several years later, in his book One Hundred Lyrics and and a Poem, Neil added that this song expresses his irritation at "the careless excuses of a friend, which made me doubt the basis of our friendship."

The lyrics take the form of a heated dialogue between two people. The verses ("You said…") express the viewpoint of the other person, while the pre-chorus ("I said, 'Really?'") and chorus ("Everything means something…") relate the narrator's own take on the matter.

Everything means something
And something has occurred

Over and over, the other person dismisses the seriousness of what has recently happened and believes the narrator is "over-reacting." But the narrator maintains that it is quite serious and his feelings are entirely justified. "Everything means something," he says, contradicting the other's insistence that whatever he has said or done is insignificant. At no time do the lyrics reveal just what it is that has taken place to cause this conversation, though from the tone of things (especially the other person's self-defense in the second verse: "We all can make mistakes—it doesn't matter that much") it could easily be interpreted as a disagreement over sexual infidelity. But Neil's assertion that this song was lyrically inspired by a debate with a "friend" means that it needn't necessarily be taken that way.

While an adventuresome track like this may not be to all fans' liking, it demonstrates how the Pet Shop Boys continue to challenge themselves with new musical styles, ever expanding the sonic canvas on which they work.

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