Between Two Islands

Writers - Tennant/Lowe/Ware/Ross
First released - 2002
Original album - Format
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Release 2017 reissue Further Listening 2001-2004 bonus disc
Other releases - bonus track with single "I Get Along"

Recorded during the Release sessions and very nearly part of that album, this vaguely "tropical" number was deleted during the final determination of the tracklist. The lyrics revolve around an extended metaphor for a failed love affair, described in nautical terms. The narrator and his erstwhile lover—at one point referred to as the "crew" and the "captain," respectively—charted a course between the two islands of the title: the "Island of Lovers" and the "Island of Whores." According to Neil (as reported in the April 2003 issue of the Boys' fan-club magazine Literally), these aren't merely a metaphorical fantasy; they're the names, when translated, of two actual islands off the coast of Estonia. The fact that there's "a very treacherous passage between them" inspired this song.

Neil reportedly experienced this treacherous passage first-hand on a vacation visit to Estonia in the summer of 2000. He was staying at a small luxury resort, Pädaste Manor, on the island of Muhu, when his host organized a boat trip to another nearby island. But a sudden severe storm forced the party to abandon their excursion mid-course and return to the safety of the resort. Neil clearly drew upon this harrowing experience to write this song.

As the lyrics explain in metaphorical terms, the relationship of the narrator and his partner gradually disintegrates, torn asunder by conflicting gravities—the comfort of monogamy versus the excitement of promiscuity. (After all, isn't that what relationships generally do in Pet Shop Boys songs? ) But our hero still has hopes of reviving it, looking to his former lover to rescue him from the shipwreck that his life has become.

In expressing this sentiment, Chris and Neil interpolate a snippet of the Marvin Gaye classic "I Want You" (hence the additional credit for the writers of that song, Leon Ware and Arthur Ross), as Neil sings, "I want you, and I want you to want me, too." While the song's elaborate metaphorical conceit may strike many as a bit strained and perhaps even too "cute," Neil's lyrical persona never descends into bathos. Meanwhile, a delightfully upbeat melody and a charming, largely acoustic arrangement are standouts, making this track a welcome addition to the Boys' latter-day repertoire.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

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