In Slow Motion

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2017
Original album - Elysium 2017 reissue Further Listening 2011-2012 bonus disc
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums -(none)
Other releases - (none)

The very first word of this appealing mid-tempo synth-ballad encapsulates it perfectly: "Dreamy." Originally just called "Slow Motion," Chris and Neil wrote it in June 2011 in a Manchester hotel room while touring with Take That. They continued to work on it, using portable recording equipment, in other hotel rooms on the tour. Shortly thereafter Neil described it as "quite a good new song," which bode well for its future. Sure enough, it would find release as a bonus track accompanying their 2017 reissue of Elysium.

The lyrics describe the reverie felt by the narrator, possibly Neil himself, while "walking empty streets" in a city's early morning hours, just after dawn, before the hustle and bustle of the day sets in. "It's a perfect day for love," he muses, though quickly adding the qualifier "if that's your point of view." This pleasantly contemplative mood finds him "living in slow motion," where "nothing seems quite real."

But, then again, is everything truly as pleasant as it initially appears? As wonderful as the narrator's daybreak frame of mind may seem, it only serves to underscore his core dilemma, which he outlines in the second verse, complete with its mildly arcane opening line:

I'm just a failed flâneur looking for a gadabout
But where that life is lived I have yet to figure out
There's no one to tell me, no one to catch my eye
Living in slow motion, it's a long goodbye

Describing himself as a "flâneur"—a French term referring to an idler or loafer who strolls about aimlessly with no real goal in mind—he professes to seek someone quite the opposite, a "gadabout" who moves briskly through life with a very specific goal in mind, to seek pleasure. This strongly suggests that, despite his morning reveries, the narrator himself isn't getting very much pleasure from life and desperately wants somone to help him find it. Otherwise, his life will only continue "in slow motion," which he poignantly describes as "a long goodbye." In other words, it only moves—yes, slowly, but ever so surely—toward oblivion and death.

The song concludes with the repetition twice of an extremely curious phrase in which Neil describes life "in slow motion" as "drifting far behind real time." The ambiguity of this phrase (how does one drift behind time, much less real time?) invites multiple interpretations. To my ears, it sounds as though the narrator feels set apart from the rest of the world, as if he were moving on another plane of existence where time is, by contrast, "unreal." To put it another way, he's not keeping up with the real world. It's then interesting to note that another phrase in the song, one that Neil uses to describe the person he and/or his narrative persona is looking for, is "a practical dreamer," which would resurface just a few years later in the Super track "Into Thin Air." In that song, the narrator (of course, not necessarily the same one) appears to have finally found someone with whom to share his life and now wants only to escape with him to a different place—perhaps yet another plane of existence altogether, only this time one in which he's no longer alone.

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