on 16 May 2004
This is a day in the life, or a life in a day, of two lovers from the early morning bath to the midnight dream. It is also utterly beautiful.
Hannon is by now into his lyrical stride, whimsical yet unfathomably deep. Rarely do you encounter words so pure and full of meaning, each phrase lovingly crafted to perfection. The cynical (yet brilliant) cad of Casanova has yet to become the main attraction, and only surfaces occasionally to garnish the proceedings with humour and realism.
The music is similarly richly layered, coloured with classical shades, yet accessible. Each track sets the mood to emote the specific scene, with orchestral flurries, atmospheric backing vocals, soft piano interludes and a sound rhythm section.
This isn't just one of the Divine Comedy's greatest recordings, it is one of history's greatest musical moments. The moral of the tale is live today, for there might be no tomorrow; no God, no second chance. Amen to that.
on 23 September 2000
There is something quite grand, about The divine comedy. Wether it is the seemingly infinate array of instruments implemented in the music, Hannon's powerful, yet subtley sweet voice or maybe it's the delicious lyrics. Lyrics with depth, and hidden layers that resonate more with every listen, lyrics that, (to quote Graham Lineham) "...make the English language flip like a clown's dog." All woven into a rich tapestry of epic music. So how can anything so grand, at the same time manage to whisper such sweet songs of sadness? Much like previous album 'Liberation', Hannon portrays a certain sense of cynisism in his lyrics, any yet directly combines this with snatches of dry wit and enlightened humour. Hannon is a master if this forte', all of his albums are monumental masterpieces, so romantic and poetic one must silently curse the music industry for overlooking them.
on 11 September 2003
“Concept album” … the phrase is enough to make you shiver and brings to mind self-important, over-blown artists disappearing up their own nether-regions in an epic quest to produce the “ultimate” record.
Fortunately, “Promenade” is a concept album that suffers from none of these things.
Loosely built around a love story that is Enid Blyton in feel, epic in scope and even Greek in its hint of tragedy, it’s as if The Famous Five were let loose in a music school and came up with a haphazard masterpiece.
This is pure joyous pop music, but from a bygone era – this is pop at it’s best, in the sense that “pop” meant before it referred to manufactured pap: short, catchy, tuneful, hummable, glorious songs; songs that you can play to your children or grandparents without shame; songs that stay in your mind and make your life richer by their mere existence.
There’s strings, there’s pianos, there’s arty film quotes; there’s “quintessentially English” phrases (“If it ain't some young Turk in search of a fight”); there’s charmingly inoffensive jingoism (“There'll aaaalllwaaays be an England (oh yes there will)”); there’s yearning for the lost innocence of childhood that feels like a message from a pre-politically correct, paedophile-obsessed era (The Summerhouse - “Daring escapes at midnight / And costume-less babes at dawn. / You were only nine years old / And I was barely ten”); there’s a list of famous authors, a homily to classic Europe cinema (“when those lights go out all over Europe / I forget about old Hollywood / 'Cos Doris Day could never make me cheer up / Quite the way those French girls always could”) and a paean to drinking (“We'll drink beyond the boundaries of sense! / We'll drink 'til we start to see lovely pink elephants”); there’s brains, there’s wit, there’s irony, there’s substance, there’s gentle humour, there’s reflection, there’s charm; it’s by turn flippant, winsome, exuberant and dashing; at times it even feels like we’re in a Jane Austen costume drama (Neptune’s Daughter - “When the last course has been consumed / They withdraw to the drawing room”) but at no point does this jumble feel pretentious, too deliberate or over-hammed.
If only falling in love felt like listening to this winning, wonderful, momentous record. Treasure it and never let it go.
Promenade, DC's second album proper, is easily his masterpiece. Considering the quality of his other recordings this is lavish praise indeed but wholeheartedly deserved. Covering `A Day in the Life' or, if you prefer, `Life In a Day', this album consistently delivers great tune after tune, brilliantly balancing the two personas of Neil Hannon - the foppish humourist and the heartstring tugging, epic balladeer
1. Bath - A slow, atmospheric start falls neatly into a jaunty and happy tune about the joys of, well, taking a bath. A great opener. (9)
2. Going Downhill Fast - The first absolute classic, an excited man rides his bicycle on his way to his lover. It is stirring, happy and the music beautifully evokes the feeling of travel. If only it were a longer song! (10)
3. The Booklovers - Unquestionably a curio and novelty but one that I have never tired of despite having owned and loved this album for over a decade. Essentially a roll call of literary heavyweights who respond in fairly bizarre ways to their names. Shouldn't work, does. (9)
4. A Seafood Song - Does what it says on the tin this one, a song about the joys of eating seafood. Although it is undeniably silly, the music is so good the songs lives on long after the humour is exhausted. (9)
5. Geronimo - A short, achingly beautiful song about a couple getting caught in a downpour. (10)
6. Don't Look Down - I struggle to think of any other songwriter who could compose a song like this. A nervous man on a Ferris wheel realises that he loves his companion and then ends up having a debate with God. Funny, touching and quite brilliant. (10)
7. When The Lights Go Out All Over Europe - A sweeping, epic ballad about the joys of European cinema and the way the `French Girls' make Mr Hannon feel! (10)
8. The Summerhouse - A simply beautiful song that, if I'm in that kind of mood, can bring tears to my eyes. One of the best songs Neil Hannon has ever written, evoking childhood memories with melancholic verve. (10)
9. Neptune's Daughter - A decent track, this suffers ever so slightly from being the least memorable song on the album. (7)
10. A Drinking Song - Much like `A Seafood Song' this is a song about the joys (and perils) of the demon drink. Again it is silly but I must have heard it hundreds of times and I still love it. (9)
11. Ten Seconds to Midnight - A slow, tender song counting down the moments at the end of the day. (10)
12. Tonight We Fly - Uplifting, soaring and upbeat, a brilliant end to a superb album, and a song that is still often played at their gigs as the set closer. Any song that contains the lyric `If heaven doesn't exist, what will we have missed, this life is the best we've ever had' has got to be saluted. (10)
Overall, an utterly essential purchase.
on 29 April 2001
Sweeties, let's not beat around the bush here. Promenade is the best Divine comedy album. It can manage to sound a bit arch the first time you listen to it but just *listen*. It's more gorgeous, more melancholy, more sensitive and gentle, more wry and funny and more musical than any reviewer can possibly do justice to. So don't read any more reviews - Keith from Setanta wil be very happy you made the purchase, as will your ears and heart.
on 21 June 2002
Promenade is one of the best albums ever made. I'm not just saying that because I'm a fan, or because I'm trying to get you to buy this from Amazon. It is one of the best albums ever made. Ever.
A beautiful story of two lovers walking along a seaside promenade during their courtship, the album covers many of the feelings and thoughts they pass along the way. Neil's concept album, then, could perhaps be used to describe it, except such a phrase brings to mind eternal rubbish from prog-rock dinosaurs Yes, or some similar clapped-out Seventies band. Nothing like that here. This is a gorgoeus, romantic album, and romantic in both senses of the word - at times it feels like you're living in the late 1700s, there's so much art herein.
Tracks such as "Going Downhill Fast" and "A Drinking Song" will have you singing along to the wonderful lyrics after only one or two listenings; "Don't Look Down" concludes with a one minute plus non-preachy spoken discourse on the nature of God, which, after about sixteen listenings of the album within 48 hours of buying it, I can now quote from start to finish; "When the Lights Go Out All Over London" will have you wanting to watch French film, "The Booklovers" will leave you wanting to read books, and "A Seafood Song" will have you running out to buy prawns.
Hannon's vocal is impressive, reaching its best on "Ten Seconds to Midnight" and "Tonight We Fly", the final tracks; the latter of these being recognised as one of the best things this band has ever done. As I think someone has said, it concludes with "this life is the best we've ever had", proving that the album and its production was a cathartic experience for its velvet-voiced progenitor.
You'll not find many better albums. Don't buy it if you are only interested in banging drumbeats and pointless lyrics, buy it if you love art and poetry; and even if you don't, you will after you've heard this.
on 18 August 2001
That Hannon was barely 24 when this album went public demonstrates incredible maturity. He manages to depict the story of a swirling romance in a work of startling unity, which questions the existence and power of God on the way but concludes that 'this life is the best we'll ever have' as if that line represents arrival at a summit of enlightenment. The music ranges from operetta style reminiscent of Queen (When the lights go out ...) through Pogue-type communal romps (A Drinking Song) to Morrissey without the miserablism (Summerhouse). There are masses of references to liquids in these songs (downpours, baths, alcohol, Neptune, cottages by and flights over the sea) but Hannon's ability to write a quirky melody and intelligent lyric, his expressive vocals (peak performance with 'Ten Seconds To Midnight') and his original arrangements are rock solid. The album combines the humour of later work with an almost nineteenth century romanticism and profondity. A must for anyone who prefers words and arrangements to basslines.
on 30 October 2001
A strange and beautiful album from the master lyricist and musician Neil Hannon and the rest of the gang. Promenade is an adventurous album which contains many of the elements that make the Divine Comedy great. It is not their finest album, perhaps, but it is full of exciting material. There is the trademark sublime silliness - what other band would open with the words "rub a dub dub"? - and beautifully orchestrated sections like in Neptune's Daughter. It also features Neil's favourite of his own songs, Tonight We Fly, which is idiosyncratically romantic. If you like the Divine Comedy, you should have this album. OK, it is an early album and not all of it works, but what other album would contain songs about seafood, drinking, suicide and God all tied together with the recurring theme: "happy the man and happy he alone who can call today his own"?
on 19 November 2011
France really loves Neil Hannon. Especially music lovers who do not have water in the brain ! France loves Neil and Neil loves France (aren't we his 'Frog Princess' as he sung in 'Casanova' ?). Some tracks sound as a tribute to our country : an ethilic one in 'A Drinking Song' ("Liberté - Egalité - Fraternité !"), a clever one in 'The Booklovers' in which our main authors appear (May I thank you, Neil, for not having forgotten Emile Zola ? In return, I shall advise Jane Austen, whom I adore, to my friends !) and a movie-making one with 'When the Lights go out all over Europe' in which it was quite a shock - in a positive manner - to hear Jean-Paul Belmondo (our national 'Bébel') and Jean Seberg (late pretty American actress) in parts of this famous French New Wave's film by Godard ('A Bout de Souffle'). Many other songs fulfill fans' expectations. I especially love the adorable 'The Summerhouse' and I do not forget to recommend the album's hit 'Tonight we fly'. Like 'Liberation' (the previous album), 'Promenade' should be listened to as a whole concept, which will not be the case with the next issues (excepting perhaps 'Victory for the Comic Muse'). A little bit like an album by the Moody Blues (the magic 'On a Threshold of a Dream' or 'Days of Future Passed'). And Neil Hannon moves us as Justin Hayward did, we thank him for this sensitive and intelligent music.
on 30 October 2001
This is truly the most beautiful and romantic album I own - it has shaped the way I think about things because I listened to it so much as a teenager. From "the booklovers" which made me want to read every book in the penguin 20th century classics collection, to "the summerhouse" which made me nostalgic for a childhood I didn't even have, to "neptune's daughter" which influenced my own music, to "when the lights go out all over europe" which made me interested in french films. The list goes on and on. Please believe me, this will be money well spent.