Integral

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2006
Original album - Fundamental
Subsequent albums - Concrete, Disco 4
Other releases - promo single (UK #197)

The Pet Shop Boys close Fundamental with a brilliant, rousing track in the over-the-top stylistic mode of "Go West," "Shameless," and "Delusions of Grandeur," yet one with far more ominous overtones than even the last of that hallowed trio. Neil describes it as "threateningly triumphalist"—appropriately enough for a song that Chris says is about "an overpowering state." On the commentary track of their Cubism DVD, while watching their performance of this song, Chris asks, "Is the whole world moving towards authoritarianism?" to which Neil replies, "I sometimes think [it] is."

Inspired by pending legislation in Britain for issuing official ID cards, the satirical lyrics are uttered from the viewpoint of government bureaucrats who boast a "long live us" attitude. (As Neil told interviewer Andrew Harrison, "I hate the whole idea of, 'Your papers please.' We do not and should not have that in this country.") They include such lines as "Your lives exist as information" and the following perversely logical, frequently expressed, yet extremely chilling quatrain:

If you've done nothing wrong
You've got nothing to fear
If you've something to hide
You shouldn't even be here

It amounts to a conformist, intensely fascistic worldview expressed in the song with the chant of "One world, one life, one chance, one reason, all under one sky, unchanging, one season." With a cold logic that a Star Trek fan might characterize as "Vulcan" in nature—or a Doctor Who fan might describe as "Dalekian"—our bureaucratic protagonists/antagonists speak directly to the listener, having determined that, as a nonconformist, "You're not integral to the project." The implications are all too clear as Neil coldly states the said project's ultimate goals:

Sterile
Immaculate
Rational
Perfect

In short, there's no place for you in this new order.

It's worth noting that Neil and Chris include the line "You're not integral to the project." This may (or may not) be an allusion to "The Project" whereby Britain's Labour Party transformed itself into "New Labour" in a successful effort to increase its electoral popularity. Regardless of whether it's a direct allusion—that is, perhaps "the project" in this song is not the same "project" as the New Labour "Project"—the Boys nonetheless were undoubtedly aware that their use of the word would carry particular weight.

Recorded with full orchestral accompaniment, this track began with Chris composing the music, although he didn't much care for it at first. He's undoubtedly changed his mind. It's unimaginable that he and Neil wouldn't be proud of their achievement in this song. In fact, they wanted it released as a single, although they ultimately had to compromise on this point. "Integral" would only be released in radically remixed form—managing in the process to eliminate quite a bit of its original melody and lyrics—as a promo single to DJs and dance clubs in support of their subsequent Disco 4 album, on which the remix also appears. The promo packaging depicts a QR Code™, a two-dimensional bar-code technology devised by a Japanese corporation in the mid-1990s, which is an appropriate enough image given the subject matter of the song. (QR Code™ is a trademark of Denso Wave, Inc. Believe it or not, I'm legally obliged to state that and to include the ™ symbol—which also seems rather appropriate, doesn't it?)

Annotations

Mixes

Officially released

List cross-references