Indefinite Leave to Remain

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2006
Original album - Fundamental
Producer - Trevor Horn
Subsequent albums - Concrete
Other releases - (none)

One of the more curious titles in the PSB canon, "indefinite leave to remain" is actually a British governmental term related to immigration. A holder of ILR (as it's commonly abbreviated) has the legal right to reside permanently in the United Kingdom. After having lived there for five years, he or she may apply for citizenship. In the July 2006 issue of Literally, Neil says that he'd had this phrase in mind for a song after having seen it stamped on the passport of a Sri Lankan friend, for whom (as he later noted in One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem) he served as a sponsor. Neil noted that he "was struck by the poetic quality of the phrase."

"Indefinite Leave to Remain" is a deeply touching song that opens with a stately, muted brass quartet. In that same issue of Literally, Chris noted the strong cultural association of brass bands with northern England towns like Bradford and Oldham, which in 2001 had been sites of riots between "natives" and immigrants—almost certainly why they opted for that particular instrumentation. Meanwhile, the lyrics demonstrate once again how the Pet Shop Boys can skillfully take an all-too-current sociopolitical concern—in this case, issues and tensions surrounding immigration—and apply it metaphorically to interpersonal relationships. In this case, the title phrase provides the narrator with a clever way of saying that he wants to spend the rest of his life with the person to whom he's speaking:

You're my nation
This is my application
Give me hope, keep me sane
Give me indefinite leave to remain

Neil would later (in the booklet that accompanied the 2017 reissue of Fundamental) say that this song essentially boils down to a marriage proposal. What's absolutely remarkable is the way in which he manages to turn such a coldly bureaucratic term into an expression of love so profoundly touching. It is, in fact, the juxtaposition of these two opposite worlds of meaning—cold bureaucracy and interpersonal warmth—that lends these lyrics their power.

While we're on the subject of cold bureaucracy, consider the next (and final) song on the album as well.



Officially released

Official but unreleased

List cross-references