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 Divine Comedy

British Rock Group

Studio Albums

Fanfare for the Comic Muse 1990

Liberation 1993

Promenade 1994

Casanova 1996

A Short Album About Love 1997

Fin De Siecle 1998

Regeneration 2001

Absent Friends 2004

Victory of the Comic Muse 2006

 

Compilations

 

A Secret History - The Best Of 1999

 

Related Artists

 

Joby Talbot

Neil Hannon

Duckworth Lewis Method

 

 

Divine Comedy

Liberation - 6.5

Festive Road/Death of a Supernaturalist/Bernice Bobs Her Hair/I Was Born Yesterday/Your Daddy's Car/Europop/Timewatching/The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count/Queen of the South/Victoria Falls/Three Sisters/Europe by Train/Lucy

Neil Hannon regarded this as the first real Divine Comedy album, although it was really a solo effort with Hannon himself playing most of the instruments. Hannon bows to the works of Checkov, Scott Fitzgerald and even Wordsworth as he proves to be a rock literary heavyweight. Liberation is a flawed album but a real starting point for classic efforts to come. It's almost as if Hannon is flexing his muscles with nods towards synth on "Europop" which features the kind of leering vocals that would find their way onto Casanova. It's difficult with the value of hindsight to reflect on how this would have been received in 1993. It's full of chamber style orchestrations, overlaid with more modern beats and would have sounded rather strange. It is only with the hindsight of listening to the full back catalogue that you can see and feel where Hannon is coming from, but more important where he is likely to be going. There are so many styles included with Timewatching even managing to sound like a chamber induced "Somewhere". Elsewhere there are jingly singalongs like "The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count" More than anything else Liberation showed the emergence of Hannon as an original talent that would blossom on subsequent albums

 

Promenade - 7

Bath/Going Downhill Fast/The Booklovers/A Seafood Song/Geronimo/Don't Look Down/When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe/The Summerhouse/Neptune's Daughter/A Drinking Song/Ten Seconds to Midnight/Tonight We Fly/Ode to the Man

The opening track Bath starts with an almost frightening classical cello solo which makes us wonder just what we are in for here. A classical rather than classic album is the answer as Neil Hannon moves on a notch from Liberation, whilst keeping a similar feel. Once again plenty of literary leanings with the very strange Booklovers consisting of the listing of authors with some very strange comments in the background. It's almost as if NH is trying to be frightfully serious whilst poking fun at himself at the same time. This is a concept album about two lovers spending the day at the seaside. It sees the first appearance of the classically trained Joby Talbot who would receive arranging credits on many subsequent albums. "When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe" shows Hannon's appreciation of French cinema and "The Summerhouse" is a beautiful and highly poignant song. The Michael Nyman influence is evident throughout the album as Hannon has himself noted.

 

Casanova - 8

Something for the Weekend/Becoming More Like Alfie/Middle-Class Heroes/In and Out of Paris and London/Charge/Songs of Love/The Frog Princess/Woman of the World/Through a Long and Sleepless Night/Theme from Casanova/The Dogs and the Horses

From the commercial viewpoint this was Divine Comedy's breakthrough album and it's easy to see why. Apart from the fact that it produced hit singles in "Something for the Weekend," "Becoming More Like Alfie" and "The Frog Princess" it has a unique feel to it. Neil Hannon is at his most lascivious and licentious and sex rears its "ugly" head in many of the pieces- almost as if Hannon is a voyeur in his own soap opera. There is also more of a rock/pop feel to the album with a sing-a-long feeling to the opening two tracks which have a huge feelgood factor and which became part of the DC diet. The album certainly rattles along. Hannon is as literary as ever but there is additional humour in this collection that gives it a very unusual feel and which set it apart from much of the music finding itself into the charts in 1996. Indeed it stuck out like a sore thumb (without the soreness of course) and was responsible for my attraction to Hannon's highly original slant on life. In the hands of a lesser talent songs like Charge with its high pitched falsetto part would sound plain ridiculous. In Hannon's hands it is delightfully over the top. Incidentally an instrumental version of "Songs of Love" appeared as the theme music to the Father Ted television comedy.

 

A Short Album About Love - 7

In Pursuit Of Happiness/Everybody Knows (Except You)/Someone/If.../If I Were You (I'd Be Through With Me)/Timewatching/I'm All You Need

After Casanova Neil Hannon changed direction to further develop his love of Scott Walker style big ballads with a seven track mini album simply about love. The word simple is not something that should be attributed to these songs, however. They aren't exactly torch songs but little love vignettes. As such they are more straightforward in feel. Gone is the leering "dirty raincoat" feel to be replaced by something altogether more mature and that's how this mini album should be approached. It's not groundbreaking, just a pleasant album of well produced material. In reality just six songs as Timewatching original appeared on the Liberation album.

 

Fin De Siecle - 8

Generation Sex/Thrillseeker/Commuter Love/Sweden/Eric the Gardener/National Express/Life On Earth/The Certainty Of Chance/Here Comes The Flood/Sunrise

Arguably the most complex and charismatic of Divine Comedy's albums. The music is often intriguing whilst losing nothing of the band's accepted quirkiness. Possibly a statement about the end of the millennium but more likely an affirmation of life, this has some stirring harmonies and beautiful pseudo classical pieces. There is pastiche a plenty about this offering with Neil attempting German nightclub music with "Sweden" and the full chorus giving vent on "Here Comes the Flood." It is an album full of changes in tempo and style with some thought provoking lyrics in the form of "Life on Earth", the beautiful "certainty of Chance" with its spoken poetical ending and "Sunrise" which brings hope to Neil's troubled homeland of Ireland. Understated pieces such as  "Commuter Love" also have their own appealing power. Above all the success of Fin is that it stays fresh despite numerous plays.

 

Regeneration - 6.5

Timestretched/Bad Ambassador/Perfect Lovesong/Note To Self/Lost Property/Eye Of The Needle/Love What You Do/Dumb It Down/Mastermind/Regeneration/The Beauty Regime 

There is definitely a more mainstream feel about this album which represented another change of direction and arguably a more modernistic feel about songs such as "Bad Ambassador.". It starts very low key with the slow opening track "Timestretched" There's plenty of melody here but I usually find myself drifting away as there is little to really grab the attention although "Eye of the Needle" is a typical DC number. I love the lines "The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German/completely at odds with the theme of the sermon." Overall it isn't a great introduction to a major label (EMI). I know that many people view this as one of their favourite DC albums but for me there isn't enough about it to life it from the mundane, although it is still a pleasant enough album.

 

Absent Friends - 7.5

Absent Friends/Sticks & Stones/Leaving Today/Come Home Billy Bird/My Imaginary Friend/"The Wreck of the Beautiful/Our Mutual Friend/The Happy Goth/Freedom Road/Laika's Theme/Charmed Life

Much more understated than albums such as Fin de Siecle and Cassanova, Absent Friends shows Neil in slightly meditative muse. There's plenty of classical strings here and plenty of mood changes and styles, but perhaps it lacks the ingenuity of some of the other albums. And maybe it takes slightly longer to get acquainted with what's on offer here - not instantly accessible but nonetheless with the same trademark originality. Certainly Charmed Life, a song to his daughter, is poignant, beautiful and optimistic "I always seem to land upon my feet." He states adding that he snatches victories from the jaws of defeat. This is a real joy of a song that verges into vaudeville towards the end. Elsewhere other songs seem to be heading into mediocrity only to be saved by choruses. Lyrically it's another strong set with the title track particularly interesting and who else would get away with using words like peripatetically "My Imaginary Friend" and Iconoclastic Images "Freedom Road."

 

Victory of the Comic Muse - 7.5

To Die A Virgin/Mother Dear/Diva Lady/A Lady Of A Certain Age/The Light Of Day/Threesome/Party Fears Two/Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World/The Plough/Count Grassi's Passage Over Piedmont/Snowball In Negative

This dovetails beautifully with "Absent Friends" and shows Neil Hannon in fine songwriting form. To Die A Virgin takes up where Generation Sex and National Express left off and for some reason A Lady of a Certain Age reminds me of Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To My Lovely." The lyrics are as sharply observed as ever - this man is a genuine poet. There's plenty of history interwoven within the more sentimental and mischevious side of Hannon's writing that makes this as strong as virtually anything else he has produced. There are moments of great beauty and originality in an enjoyable album.

Compilations

 

A Secret History - The Best Of - 6

National Express/Something for the Weekend/Everybody Knows (Except You)/Generation Sex/Becoming More Like Alfie/The Summerhouse/Your Daddy's Car/The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count/The Frog Princess/Gin Soaked Boy/Lucy/Songs of Love/In Pursuit of Happiness/I've Been to a Marvellous Party/The Certainty of Chance/Too Young to DieTonight We Fly

The album was the last to be released by the band on the Setanta Record label and featured material from Liberation to Fin de Siecle with some additions in the from of a re-recording of The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count" and "Your Daddy's Car" two new tracks in "Gin Soaked Boy" and "Too Young to Die". The Noel Coward tribute recording of "I've Been To A Marvellous Party" was also included. So slightly more than a best of collection. Overall the "best of" part is good solid stuff and does represent much of Neil Hannon's best material. So what of the additional tracks. Gin Soaked Boy is jaunty enough, Too Young To Die is an average but pleasant DC number but the less said about the pretty dreadful "Marvellous Party" the better. The added tracks do little to further enhance what is a decent package.