Alternative is a 2-disc set, consisting of 30 B-sides in chronological order. The title Alternative was a last-minute change from the title that had been long saved for such an album, Besides, but that title was taken by American rock band Sugar, who released their own B-sides compilation two months prior.
Alternative only really gained popularity among devoted fans of Pet Shop Boys with the exception of the UK, where it entered the charts at #2. A remake of the original 7-inch "Paninaro", titled "Paninaro '95", was released as a single (which was featured in the later PopArt set) to promote the 2-disc compilation.
The cover of Alternative features photographs of Tennant and Lowe in fencing masks. The first copies of the CD have a lenticular image on the cover which shifts between the two photographs.
Neil Tennant admitted in a radio interview with Absolute Radio that a second B-side album may be released in 2010. This materialised on 11 November 2011 when the duo announced through Varsity that they would release another B-sides album in February 2012 titled Format.