Fluorescent

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2013
Original album - Electric
Producer - Stuart Price
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - Limited-edition 12-inch vinyl single exclusive to independent U.K. records shops for "Record Store Day" 2014

Beginning life as an instrumental demo by Chris, this was the last song written and recorded for Electric, created by the Boys during April 2013. In fact, as Neil revealed in an interview with Robbie Daw of Idolator, it bears the distinction among PSB tracks of "the quickest turnaround from being written to being on a record." Its late birth even largely accounted for pushing the album's release out a month from its originally scheduled June date.

In the song, Neil (or his lyrical persona) is addressing a specific person:

You've been living in a looking-glass scene
Since you were seventeen
I can't deny you've made your mark

"Fluorescent" (as well as another adjective used in the song, "incandescent") refers to the way in which this person can "light up a room." He or she is a nightlife habitué ("At midnight it's time for business") with beauty and fame who lives life on the edge, gambling with danger and scandal. Neil intones, "Brighter and brighter and brighter you burn," strongly suggesting (though never coming right out and saying) the corollary: that this person will inevitably burn out. The only question then is when—to extend the lyrical metaphor—the fluorescent light will start to flicker. As such, this song serves as commentary on the fleeting nature of that aforementioned beauty and fame: observing it, if only for the sake of documenting it for its eventual passing.

Incidentally, this track includes sampled "pops" and "crackles" from an old vinyl record, a technique that has been used with varying degrees of subtlety on tracks by various artists for well over a decade. In this digital era, such technically needless sounds serve as a trendy sonic conceit—an "audio objective correlative," if you will—invoking both an earlier age of analog recordings and nostalgia for when they were a virtually inevitable by-product of listening to one's favorite music over and over again. Stuart Price's production of the track also plays around with the tunings of its instrumentation, dominated by analog synthesizers, lending it a loose, warped quality that strongly suggests seediness, imperfection, and decay. Then again, considering those "vinyl cracks and pops," the "warping effect" might also simply suggest an old 12-inch vinyl dance record that's been played to death—because it's that good.

Meanwhile, Neil sings in somewhat lower tones than to which we're generally accustomed, his voice even sounding strangely weary and detached. Together, these qualities cast an ominous pall over the proceedings, which serves to heighten the mood of inevitable burnout. One can't help but feel that the person about whom Neil is singing, will not—for all of his or her "brightness," beauty, and fame—come to a good end.

In 2014 the Boys re-recorded "Fluorescent" in a different key, a slightly modified melody, and a very different style with additional lyrics—memorably described by NME as "fantastically bitchy"—that are spoken by Neil aside from his repeatedly sung and bitingly caustic "Are you past your sell-by date?" line. The results, two new versions of the song, were released in April as a special vinyl single exclusive for U.K. "Record Store Day."

Annotations

Even the "fluorescent" references may suggest the UV and red fluorescent lights used in the windows of hookers in urban red-light districts, perhaps most notoriously in Belgium and the Netherlands. While the character addressed in the song may not not literally be a prostitute, Neil may be hinting with such language that they're essentially "prostituting themselves" with their behavior.

Mixes

Officially released

List cross-references