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Absent Friends CD

52 customer reviews

Price: £4.97 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20. Details
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Amazon's The Divine Comedy Store


Image of album by The Divine Comedy


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NEIL Hannon claims to have written The Divine Comedy’s triumphant ninth album, “Victory For The Comic Muse”, more or less by accident. After touring extensively on the back of 2004’s “Absent Friends”, Hannon found himself, once back home in Dublin with his family, suffering the ennui common to those who’ve endured an intense period of being forced to ... Read more in Amazon's The Divine Comedy Store

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Absent Friends + Regeneration + Casanova
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Product details

  • Audio CD (29 Mar. 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: EMI
  • ASIN: B00014TJUC
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,947 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

With Absent Friends the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon finally establishes himself as one of the finest songwriters of a generation. Over successive albums he's slowly been moving in that direction--from curious pop novelty with an avid interest in camp kitsch to the sly storyteller of 2001's brilliant Regeneration. But Absent Friends is something else. He's still revelling in his supremely eccentric perspective--namely that of a 60s dandy who likes a drink--but now he's using it for dramatic not comedic effect. Quirky ditties "Come Home Billy Bird" and "My Imaginary Friend", respectively about a businessman trying to get home for his son's football match and invisible childhood playmates, manage to be both sweet and poignant. At the other end of the emotional scale, "The Wreck of the Beautiful", "Leaving Today" and "Our Mutual Friend" ponder love, loss and betrayal with a panache and dry wit that make the melancholy all the more staggering. And with sinister sweeping orchestras and eerie lounge--all Michael Caine in a sharp suit--echoing throughout, Absent Friends is a vintage masterpiece in every sense of the word. --Dan Gennoe

BBC Review

After three long years in the musical wilderness, the UK's favourite fop idol is back. Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon may have managed to lose his band along the way, but fortunately his touch for writing poignant pop songs has not deserted him.

After calling it a day in 2001, Hannon moved to Dublin, had a kid, cut his hair and decided to give it another shot, albeit without the rest of his merry men - Absent Friends, if you like.

The vocals remain as warm as a pair of trusty old slippers and the lyrics as sharp as a needle, although by the end of this record you'll feel the need for a stiff gin and tonic to give you a lift.

The title track could be the theme from High Chaparral that got left on the cutting room floor and features namechecks to Oscar Wilde, Steve McQueen and Willie Woodbine (whoever he is).

"Sticks And Stones", with its tense, stabbing strings is another song straight out of the movies - while "Charmed Life" is an epic string ballad that could have been written for Sinatra.

Essentially, Absent Friends is the soundtrack of a man who's never been happier, yet is keen to remember the bad times to put things in perspective. New single "Come Home Billy Bird" - with gorgeous backing vocals from Lauren Laverne - is the tale of an over-worked businessman who overcomes a series of obstacles to make his boy's first football match.

"The Wreck Of The Beautiful" follows the haunting last rites of a once-great battleship and "Our Mutual Friend" recalls the pal who introduced Hannon to a woman, then took her for himself. The cad. Light relief comes in the shape of "My Imaginary Friend" - Bowie's "Laughing Gnome" dragged into the 21st century - but the laughs are generally few and far between.

Anyone expecting a return ticket for the National Express is going to be disappointed. Persevere, though, and you'll find it's the smoothest ride you've had in ages. --Chris Charles

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Mar. 2004
Format: Audio CD
The Divine Comedy's 2001 album 'Regeneration' was a great piece of work, showing that Neil Hannon can turn his hand to any style of music he wants to. However, some of it lacked the sparkle, the magic, that The Divine Comedy had become known for.
With 'Absent Friends' the sparkle and the magic are back with devastatingly effective results. From the rousing title track to the heartfelt 'Charmed Life', this is probably Hannon's most balanced and beautiful body of work to date (and for that honour it's up against some tough competition). The 'downbeat-yet-uplifting' tracks (something which only Neil Hannon seems able to write) of 'Leaving Today', 'The Wreck of the Beautiful' and 'Freedom Road' are nicely juxtaposed with the more immediate, fast-paced tracks such as 'Come Home Billy Bird', 'The Happy Goth' and the childlike and playful 'My Imaginary Friend'. The mixture works well, leaving the first-time listener never quite sure what's going to arrive next. From dramatic orchestral sounds to tender, intimate moments, this album is never anything less than the height of aural pleasure.
It's not often something that's been awaited for such a long period of time lives up to expectations. With 'Absent Friends' The Divine Comedy has surpassed them, and this is highly recommended as the best album in many a year.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Feb. 2004
Format: Audio CD
Neil Hannon's back, and it sounds fantastic.
Looks like he's listened to a lot of Scott Walker (the title track, 'Sticks & Stones', 'Leaving Today' are heavily influenced but Hannon manages to make them sound fresh ).
Though mixed by Nigel Godrich, "Absent Friends" just sounds miles away from "Regeneration".
A sort of return to the "Liberation"/"Promenade" era, with orchestral arrangements back at full force. (with the assistance of ex Divine Comedy member Joby Talbot)
Hannon's voice really stands out in this collection of stories, mostly written on the road when Neil toured the USA with Ben Folds in 2002. (that's when he had showcased the songs "Wreck Of The Beautiful", "Happy Goth", "Our Mutual Friend", "Charmed Life" or "Come Home Billy Bird" (first single of the album to be released on March 22nd).
All in all a beautiful, rich and clever album.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Grr VINE VOICE on 3 Aug. 2006
Format: Audio CD
Mr Hannon just gets better with age, like Wine or cheese!

1. Absent Friends - Wonderful curtain raiser. Poignant and touching but enough going on to get your feet going. Had me welling up at the first listen. Kudos for the 80's theme tune popping up too! (10)

2. Sticks & Stones - Simple but scathing muse on the mysteries of attraction. Lyrically very smart. (8)

3. Leaving Today - Love the lyrics but find the music a bit of a dirge to be honest. (7)

4. Come Home Billy Bird - Fantastic song and a worthy single. Humourous, anecdotal lyrics with a real emotional kick at the end. Lovely to hear Lauren Laveren (of Kenickie/XFM fame) adding backing vocals. (10)

5. My Imaginary Friend - Starts like a novelty record but ends with real pathos. Surprisingly touching and one of my wifes faves. (8)

6. The Wreck of the Beautiful - Weakest song on the album as it is simply not memorable. Nothing really wrong with it but.... (6)

7. Our Mutual Friend -In my humbe opinion, the best song written thus far this decade. (10)

8. Happy Goth - Another sounds-like-a-joke-song-but-isn't track. Will ring true for a lot of people. Nice Star Wars reference too. (9)

9. Freedom Road - Div Com go country! not as horrendous as it sounds. This is a world weary spot on performance. (9)

10. Laikas Theme - brief insturmental. Does nothing wrong (6)

11. A Charmed life - 'My Way' for the modern age. (10)
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Feb. 2004
Format: Audio CD
The Divine Comedy have been one of the British music scene's most interesting, if never influential, bands, combining lavish orchestral arrangements with witty and intellectual lyrics. However, since the frontman Neil Hannon's marriage in 1999, he has moved away from the arch wit of 'National Express' and 'Something for the Weekend' in favour of a more heartfelt and sincere sound. The first evidence of this was the Nigel Godrich-produced 'Regeneration', which had some interesting musical and lyrical ideas but was largely spoilt by Hannon adopting Radiohead as an influence (listen to Kid A and Regeneration back to back, it's an education), and, most damagingly of all, eschewing the sweeping arrangements that epitomise the Divine Comedy.

Here, Hannon and his long-term collaborator Joby Talbot have returned to the orchestral, lush sound of Fin de Siecle and Casanova, where song after song sounds like a hybrid of Broadway musical, Scott Walker epic, Michael Nyman-esque soundtrack and, in the case of the splendid title track, even 60s-esque western. Fans of earlier Divine Comedy albums are almost certain not to be disappointed by this; stand-out tracks include the mighty 'Freedom Road', loosely based on Hannon's experiences touring America, the doom-laden epic 'Our Mutual Friend', which is about an especially cruel case of infidelity, and 'Sticks and Stones', which features Amelie's Yann Tiersen on guest accordion.

However, it is the lyrics that raise this several notches above most of the competition. Over and over again, Hannon has proved that he has a gift for the witty allusion, and Oscar Wilde, Steve McQueen, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and Tennyson all appear in some guise or another.
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