Screaming

Writers - Tennant/Lowe/Stephan
First released - 1998
Original album - Psycho soundtrack (1998, various artists)
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Format
Other releases - bonus track with single "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More"; bonus disc with the U.S. "special edition" of Nightlife

The Pet Shop Boys offered this stomping ditty about obsessive infatuation—more specifically, according to Neil, "written from an obsessive fan's point of view"—for the soundtrack of Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of Psycho without having seen the film itself. (It's "the easiest way to get a lot of money from Hollywood," as Neil told an interviewer for the German magazine Galore.) As a result, it first appeared on the 1998 Psycho soundtrack. It later resurfaced, in a very slightly altered version, on the "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More" CD single.

Ordinarily one wouldn't look askance at the narrator's inability to get the object of his affection off his mind. It's actually rather run-of-the-mill stuff for pop music. But in the context of Psycho, it's downright disturbing. Equally odd is the break in the middle of the track, where the music and rhythm all but drop out altogether, leaving atonal, weirdly distorted vocalizations of the title. Innovative, to be sure, but it somehow doesn't come off very well.

Otherwise the music, co-written with keyboardist Tom Stephan (aka Superchumbo), is very much in the latter-day vein of "Shameless" and "Delusions of Grandeur," in which it would seem that Neil and Chris allow over-the-top production to serve as a shorthand for irony. This had been a terrific device previously, but by 1998 it was starting to get old. Still, it was great to see the Boys making a serious bid to reinstate themselves in the good graces of mainstream U.S. pop music, even it did prove somewhat futile.

In Issue 20 (July 1999) of the PSB fan-club publication Literally, the lyrics for an "unreleased version" of this song were provided along with those of the released version. Among these are lines ("I'd like to know … why when we're born underneath such a clear sky, we're lost in the forest at dusk when we die") that, in a slightly modified form, would shortly turn up in "Happiness Is an Option." Except for the identical chorus ("Guess there's no place to hide …"), these alternate lyrics are so radically different not only in wording but in rhythmic structure that it seems likely that this unreleased version has an altogether different melody, at least for the verses. It would be wonderful if the Boys could see fit to release this other version someday.

Annotations

Mixes

Officially released

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