This anthem to suburban romance sees vocalist and lyricist Brett Anderson desperate to convince himself that there's an escape from council estate gloom. He recalled to Q magazine April 2011: "I had this schoolboy-ish idea to sneak an overtly sexual song with the framework of pop. I was amazed it got daytime radio play, considering the title is a play on amyl nitrite. To me, it's set in suburbia, in a council estate in Haywards Heath. I was brought up as a white, working-class English boy, and that's what I wrote about. If you're born in a dump you aspire to something better."
Amyl nitrite is employed medically to treat heart diseases such as angina and also to treat cyanide poisoning. It is also used as an inhalant drug that induces a brief euphoric state, and when combined with other intoxicant stimulant drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy, the euphoric state intensifies and is prolonged. However, its use as a recreational drug is risky as once its effects have worn off, a common side effect is a period of depression or anxiety.
The song was originally called "Dixon." Anderson explained to Q magazine: "The working title was Dixon, because we all thought it sounded like the theme from (BBC TV series) Dixon Of Dock Green. I think Bernard (Butler) wrote the music for this quite early on but I couldn't crack a really good vocal melody or lyric, so I sat on it for a while."
Pedro Romhanyi directed the video, which caused some controversy when it was banned for its depiction of two men engaging in a kiss.
Brett Anderson explained the story behind the song to NME May 11, 2013: "The idea for 'Animal Nitrate' came when I was going through a period when drugs were taking the place of people. Sex was just a hollow, vacuous thing which was made full and three-dimensional by the fact that I was taking a huge amount of drugs. It wasn't actually anything to do with amyl nitrate, it was other sorts of drugs - coke, ecstasy. My mind was in a stormy period, I was going quite insane.
"It definitely has a veneer (of gay sex) but there's a very sad undertone," he added. "People think about gay sex and never really think about it romantically. They see sadness, romance and loss as purely a hetrosexual thing. There's a definite domestic violence feel to 'Animal Nitrate.' But behind that there's a real sadness."