We're All Criminals Now

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2009
Original album - Format
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - bonus track with single "Love etc."; Yes 2017 reissue Further Listening 2008-2010 bonus disc

This song was completed in early January 2009, after work on the album Yes was wrapped up. As Neil put it on the official PSB website, "Yes, we're still banging on about the erosion of freedoms" in the U.K. in the wake of the "war on terror"—a subject that the Boys had begun to explore in earnest with the previous album's "Integral." Elaborating in a subsequent interview with The Sun, he added, "We are all under constant surveillance and are all treated as being potentially guilty, as if we are about to commit some kind of crime." Hence the title.

The Boys have stated that the lyrics, composed in the first person, were originally written from the perspective of Jean Charles de Menezes, a young Brazilian national who was shot and killed by London police at the Stockwell subway station on July 22, 2005. The police had mistakenly identified him as a likely terrorist and suicide bomber. Neil and Chris, however, decided to modify the lyrics before the final recording, instead casting the narrator as a subway passenger who witnesses this event.

The song has a surprisingly cheery, upbeat sound despite this somber backdrop and lyrics describing "cameras on my back, suddenly hearing sirens sounding panic attack." The narrator expresses his dismay with an ironically flippant "Hey, hey, don't ask me how. We've changed, we're all criminals now." In fact, the entire track, if you look just beneath its glossy surface, has a bitterly ironic tone. The instrumentation is in on this bleak joke. A case in point: the flute accompaniment (or synths/samplers mimicking flutes) in the chorus, which strongly suggests both extremely inappropriate levity and much more reasonable whistling in the dark. If the lyrics seem slightly paranoiac ("We're being framed"), it's only because the Boys are saying, in effect, that a little paranoia in the current sociopolitical climate is entirely justified.


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