Hit and Miss

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1996
Original album - Bilingual 2001 reissue Further Listening 1995-1997 bonus disc
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Format
Other releases - bonus track with "Before" single

This pretty but somewhat morose midtempo track—a bonus track on the "Before" CD single—with its prominently strummed acoustic guitar, was stylistically influenced by the alternative/Britpop scene that was flourishing at the time (1996). The lyrics concern the narrator's sad, even slightly embittered feelings about his life in general and his erstwhile lover in particular. Although Neil has affirmed that the lyrics were inspired by actual events in his life, he has pointedly noted that this song is not auto-biographical. The persona that he adopts here comes across as bit of a sadsack for whom nothing ever turns out quite right. Even the things that go well for a while tend eventually to turn sour. As he puts it, "All my life had been hit and miss."

The central narrative of the song concerns the trajectory of a love affair: its tentative beginnings, the excitement of limerence, the flush of full, romantic love with expectations for life-long devotion. But then, sadly, love falters and declines on the part of one of the partners. The love that the narrator had thought would bring him "a new life"—no longer one of "hit and miss"—has proven to fall victim to the same old pattern. Forlornly, the narrator asks his lover, even "if your heart is cold and I seem too old" to "think back to the first time we were in love." Whether he's hoping that this memory will rekindle love or that it will simply arouse fonder, kinder feelings toward him remains an open question. Even that outcome is subject to the hit and miss nature of his existence.

Such feelings and observations are of course quite natural for anyone's life—life is ordinarily full of ups and downs. But to wallow in such feelings may seem somewhat depressive behavior. No, I'm not at all suggesting that Neil suffers from depression; rather, the character that he portrays in this song sounds as though he does. Good lyricists (and, frankly, Neil is one of the best of his generation) can convey all manner of observations, feelings, and characterizations that may have little or nothing to do with their own personal circumstances. Whatever the case, here the Boys do a superb job of conveying the almost ineffable sorrow of lost love, all the more sorrowful on account of the joy it brought before its loss. In many ways, love can be the greatest "hit"—and, conversely, the greatest "miss"—of all.

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