The Night Is a Time to Explore Who You Are

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2017
Original album - Release 2017 reissue Further Listening 2001-2004 bonus disc
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

This song was originally planned for Closer to Heaven as a number by the character Billie Trix, meant to express her "philosophy of life." But Neil and Chris decided against using it. Their demo remained unheard by the public until it appeared as a bonus track with the 2017 reissue of Release.

A rather dark track (appropriately enough) in which Neil's vocal is at times heavily and somewhat creepily processed—much of it all but unintelligible without the aid of the lyric sheet—it expresses the view that one's life is a work of art, a notion that the Boys would again revisit with "The Performance of My Life." But the focus here is very different, emphasizing (as the title states) that it is under the cover of darkness, during the night, that we are most free to discover who we really are, or at least who we want to be. This sober romanticization of the night, with all of its implications for good or for ill, was of course a recurring theme in both Closer to Heaven and the Nightlife album, which shared the similarly night-focused song "Vampires."

Perhaps the most interesting lines occur in the second verse:

Here in the night
Is a strange democracy
It's not who you are that matters
But what you could be

From the narrator's perspective, the night presumably offers a "strange democracy" in which the leveling effects of the darkness permits people to come together and interact in ways far less concerned with the trappings of background, class, and status than would occur during far more "illuminated" daylight hours. But that somewhat begs a question: which is more real? It reminds me of that quandary posed fifty (!) years ago in drummer Graeme Edge's poems "The Day Begins" (aka "Morning Glory") and "Late Lament," which bookend the classic 1967 album Days of Future Passed by his band the Moody Blues. In contrasting the night and the day, he observed, "We decide which is right, and which is an illusion." So, too, here. Does this "strange democracy" convey greater truth or obscuring falsehoods? Perhaps both. That's one of the things you need to explore in the night along with who you are.

List cross-references