The Former Enfant Terrible

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2009
Original album - Format
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Fundamental 2017 reissue Further Listening 2005-2007 bonus disc; Yes 2017 reissue Further Listening 2008-2010 bonus disc
Other releases - bonus track with single "Did You See Me Coming?"

Chris and Neil composed this song in late April 2005. Four years later, Chris wrote on the Pet Shop Boys' Twitter page that they would release it as one of the bonus tracks on the second single from Yes. It's available in both its "original" version and as a remix.

The French part of the title, pronounced "awn-fawn tair-EE-bluh" and meaning "terrible child," is commonly used to refer to a highly talented young person with a reputation for scandalously bad behavior. The titular protagonist is described in the following deprecating manner:

Pity him, the former enfant terrible
His career in aspic, bent on pleasure
Gamely attempting the tricky transition
From ageing outrage to national treasure

The caustic lyrics, uttered (not sung) throughout by Neil, alternate between a shouted chorus mouthed by the "former enfant terrible" himself ("Gimme a bandwagon and I'll jump on it!") and verses more calmly but sneeringly spoken by a thoroughly disapproving commentator ("He won't be happy 'til he's in the House of Lords"). This has proven sufficient to make fans wonder whether, as in the case of "How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously?" this track is about a specific real-life celebrity—and, if so, whom? There's no shortage of candidates. But Neil cleared this up somewhat in the July 2009 issue of the Boys' official fan club magazine Literally when he revealed that the song "was kind of inspired by Mick Jagger getting a knighthood"—though he immediately added, "but it's not just that."

Musically the track is adventuresome: "techno" in the extreme, its backing track is dominated by what sounds like a repeating analog synth pattern. Essentially lacking a melody, it's been compared by some fans to the similarly experimental, similarly almost tuneless "The Sound of the Atom Splitting"—although, at least to this listener's ears, it's a significant improvement on that much earlier work.



Officially released

List cross-references