on 6 September 2001
I'd always been a fan of the singles The Divine Comedy had released in a vague 'Oh I like that' when it was played on the radio kind of way but never got round to buying any of their albums.
Recently I decided to update my cd collection with something of theirs but had no idea which album to get. I trawled through tons of reviews on the net and the concensus seemed to be that this is their best album.
Now I have 'Casanova' and 'Fin de Siecle' I can at least make some sort of judgement and I think this is an amazing album. Normally albums take a while to grow on me...first listening..hmmm a bit disappointing but gradually they get better. Not in this case! I liked this album from first listening and it just gets better and better with subsequent airings.
The lyrics are slick, humerous, witty and sharp - the music swells with orchesteral pop. Each song is a story told through the lyrics and the music. My favourites would have to be "Becoming more like Alfie" and "The Frog Princess".
Warning: If you listen to this CD at work be careful about head nodding along to it and laughing at the lyrics!
Haven't got a Divine Comedy CD but want one? Get this one.
on 1 June 2004
I've been listening to a lot of new music recently, and I'm starting to get cynical. After hearing Ben Folds' superb cover of 'Songs Of Love' I opted to check out The Divine Comedy, and after seeking advice from the reviews on this site, purchased 'Cassonva'. How could I possibly be cynical about this - its removed every pecimistic bone in my body. Refreshingly orchestral, ambitious and yet still witty, and deeply human, this is a masterpiece completely beyond my wildest exceptions and at the moment my favourite album in the whole world - wow!
Its not my place to pick out highlights for you, because you (thats everybody) should buy this album and go through that joyeus phase of being hit by special moments yourselves. But, if you insist, 'Through a long and sleepless night' is the best Track 9 I've ever heard on an album - uplifting and angsty, its the storm before the concluding calm. 'The frog princess' is splendidly wry, but at the same time doubles as a great pop song, 'Songs of Love' is THE perfect love song, intelligant, dry, and a fascinatingly good melody. The whole album is rich in classics - I only wish I could find the words to do it justice.
I finish this album for the fourth time in two days, in complete awe of Neil Hannon's songwriting, and completely baffled as to why its never mentioned in these 'top 10 albums of all time' lists we see so often going around. Not that it matters, of course, in the real world, because as long as beauty such as this exists we're all extremely lucky people.
on 10 March 2004
This was the album that introduced me to the wonderfully rich world of The Divine Comedy in 1996, after hearing “The Frog Princess” on the radio. At first I thought it was Vic Reeves!
On hearing the song again it became clear to me that, although lyrically witty, it was far from the novelty record I had initially assumed it to be, and I thereby narrowly avoided the trap many people have fallen into where The Divine Comedy are concerned (although I’m sure they didn’t mistake them for Vic Reeves). Thankfully I was curious enough to find out more, and I’m so glad I did. From that point on, “Casanova” was my Walkman listening choice on the 444 bus journey between Wakefield and Bretton Hall, where I was studying at the time.
I also invested in the back catalogue - “Liberation” and “Promenade” - so I could experience Neil Hannon’s legacy in full, as well as trace the development of his music from the beginning. From that point of view, it’s an interesting journey to “Casanova”.
Apparently Hannon’s record company at the time, Setanta, funded the recording of “Casanova” with the money they had made from the release of “A Girl Like You” by Edwyn Collins, which probably explains the larger orchestral presence on the album than the recording budgets for the previous two albums could accommodate. This in turn would provide Hannon with the means to realise in full the grandiose vision he clearly had in mind.
And he really pulls it off in style. The influences always mentioned in the same breath as Hannon - Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, Noel Coward, perhaps even a touch of ELO - are very present indeed. It’s not a concept album as such, but it does have a constant theme running through it - that of casual sex and its effect on those who indulge but ultimately yearn for something more substantial - inspired by Hannon’s own experiences following his first flushes of pop success. “Becoming More Like Alfie” is the most blatant example, where Hannon likens himself to Michael Caine’s signature film character: “Now I’m resigned/to the kind of life I’d reserved/for other guys less smart than I/you know, the guys who will always end up with the girls,” he croons regretfully.
Hannon’s vibrant lyrical whimsy is hugely articulate, painting colourful pictures throughout of, amongst other things, sexual blackmail and robbery (“Something For The Weekend”), the sexual experience described like a military encounter (the superbly fruity innuendo-laden “Charge”) and sexual angst (“Through A Long And Sleepless Night”). In short, it is a very sexual album indeed.
It sounds rather like a soundtrack to an imaginary musical, and in this context it does contain one or two real show-stoppers, “A Woman Of The World” being the most prominent example, as it contains a wonderful and unexpected swing towards the end. I can almost see the top hat and tails glitzy Hollywood-style dance routine every time I hear it.
This is the album on which Joby Talbot, Hannon’s right hand man, really comes into his own as an arranger. Hannon is wise to defer to Talbot in this area, as the results are spectacular. There are so many examples of his ability to be subtle and restrained or bombastic and grandiloquent in equal measures throughout the album. I’ll not list them here, just buy the album and hear for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.
This is an album rich in diversity, bathed in a lush orchestral glow. As ever, Hannon’s astounding bass/baritone voice booms with utter clarity. No problems wondering what that lyric was or whether you heard right will present themselves here. This is a superb album, filled with all the style, beauty, romance and decadence you could possibly fit on one disc. It epitomises Hannon’s raffish bounder persona, with which he was toying at the time, before he wisely decided to leave it behind and tread pastures new. For maximum effect, listen to this album in a creaky old oak panelled room in front of a roaring log fire, as you languish in a huge leather armchair with a nice bottle of vintage port and a couple of nubile, willing female companions. I’ve yet to try that…
on 27 May 2004
The Divine Comedy's biggest commercial hit (thanks to the only decent thing Chris Evans ever did) pitches its stall in the midst of the battle of the sexes. More specifically, focusing on the futility of man's position in this eternal struggle. The result is an eclectic journey that showcases the Comedy's musical dexterity and Hannon at his lyrical best.
"Hello" is the opening word, as the repetitive melody of Something For The Weekend washes over you, setting the scene for a show that will satirise every aspect of male vanity and female cunning. Becoming More Like Alfie exhibits a subdued verse but a bitter-suite triumphant chorus. Middle-Class Heroes (a remake of an earlier Comedy demo with very different lyrics) is a modern day personal disaster story with a chiming hypnotic undercurrent, during which Hannon declares his intent: "wit against shit!" He proceeds to prove his point with the lyrically sublime In and Out of Paris and London eagerly pursued by Charge. Two tracks so packed full of innuendo that Kenneth Williams would have blushed. The latter sees Churchill paraphrased with the word "fight" clearly a euphemism for another "f" word, after which Barry White and the Bee Gees make an appearance, all glued together with the nursery rhyme of the spider and the fly. In my book, this is nerve and audacity, vision and brilliance on par with Oscar Wilde. It demonstrates that a humorous song, if musically good enough, does not have to be a novelty. Only Zappa before has carried this trick off so effectively. The smut gives way to the beauty of Songs Of Love and Frog Princess. Both are tender love songs, drizzled with a healthy layer of cynicism and melancholy observation. Anybody who has been in a loving but destructive relationship will find a chord well and truly struck behind the analogy of the French Revolution. Suddenly, a catchy whistling intro informs the listener that the Comedy have turned into a big band, as Woman of the World unfolds with yet more lyrical precision. Through A Long and Sleepless Night is the Comedy's darkest moment to date, maybe an antithesis of the sweet dreams from Tonight We Fly. A beautifully sad chorus punctuates a turgid, morbid train of thought from a depressive insomniac, as the narrator laments his masculine insecurity via an appropriately falsetto vocal. Theme From Casanova sounds like an encore, but is really an interval before the dark but warm Dogs and Horses. "Sing a happy song" Hannon wails over the saddest of piano licks, lyric and music contrasting in the most effective of intros. The Dogs of the Horses will be with you until you say Goodbye. "Goodbye" being the last word on the album.
Guinness is not the only Irish export that can claim to be pure genius.
on 23 September 2000
From start to finish, this album perpetuates perfection. From the giggling girls in the intro, to the romantiscised nostalgic, and sweetly saddening denoument, of the breath taking 'Dogs and the horses' utter paradise resides. There are snatches of the sublime, with hints of even the ridiculous, but with a certain sense of bliss, backed with a powerful ensemble of musicians and provoked with Hannons powerfully ambient voice. The sincerity and beauty of the gentle 'songs of love', with the painfully recognizable angst ridden frustration of 'Through a long and sleepless night', combine to create a concise album of groovy guitars, moving melodies and loveable lyrics. 'Casanova' manages to connect the gentle to the almighty, it's moving, life changing yet at the same time quite humourous in places. Another masterpiece, to quote Darren Allison. (Producer, Liberation, Promenade and Casanova.) "Casanova was a labour of love that put The Divine Comedy on the map."
Blimey! I'm amazed that Mr Hannon's best album has slipped through the net.
It's Noel Coward meets Father Ted, meets Bob Geldof meets..... Oh, it doesn't matter. If comparison is all you crave, get some new ears!
Not for everyone this, but if you get it, it's as good as it gets! Hannon's voice is Scott Walker baritone one moment, shimmering falsetto the next. The album's camp, big, bold, theatrical and unashamedly intellectual. Hannon quotes Dickens and Shakespeare in the same breath as he'd cover the Associates or Orange Juice (both of which he has done).
He's a great singer, tremendous songwriter, and a visionary in presentation. Joby Talbot arranges and conducts here, and the scope of the album is jaw-dropping in its relentless ingenuity and intricacy.
As a concept album (based on the life of Casanova), it's pretentious in the extreme, but the individual tunes are stand-alone fantastic ("Something For The Weekend", "Becoming More Like Alfie", "The Frog Princess" - singles, all).
But it's the last two tracks that really lay out Hannon's wares for consideration. The instrumental "Theme" is a melodic sweetmeat to out-saccharine all Love Story pastiches, and therefore transcends them all, and "The Dogs and The Horses" is a hopelessly romantic love letter to the pets "you'll have to outlive". It's, unbelievably, genuinely moving, and perhaps the closest Hannon comes to a lyrical honesty.
As an album, it is quite an incredible proposition - an instrumental, a song in 7/8 time (has he been hanging out with Sting?), the Father Ted theme (with surprisingly sensible lyrics: "Songs of Love") and most overblown of all, "Charge" - perhaps the only song that sags under the weight of its own ambition. It's too bloated to live confidently along the rest as it is melodically rather uninspired. Good lyrics, though: "Unhook the straps of the booby traps and set the captives free." Lyric writing throughout is never anything less than witty, urbane, considered and thought-provoking.
All in all, a stunning album. Need to like his voice, but if you do, it's a staggering achievement, and thoroughly (and deliciously) recommended.
on 15 October 2011
This is Tom's review. Tom is my 8-year-old son and he likes Divine Comedy a lot.
This is Divine Comedy's 4th album - well, the 3rd if you don't count Fanfare for the Comic Muse. My two favourite tracks on this CD are the first two tracks - Something for the Weekend and Becoming More Like Alfie.
There are nine proper tracks on the CD plus two bonus tracks - Theme for Casanova and The Dogs and the Horses. We find that they are bonus tracks when Neil Hannon disguises his voice as a sort of Radio 3 continuity announcer.
I found this CD very interesting. You find that in the song Charge, you hear gun sound effects at the end. Also Heroes of the Middleclass sounds rather mysterious to me, especially the ending of it.
Just another thing about the tracks, just in case anyone wants to know the timings of the tracks, here they are:
Anyway, I don't think people will be mnuch interested in the timings.
That's really all I have to say about this CD. I think it's fabulous and I give it 5 stars.
I hope a few people will find this review helpful, and this is Tom signing off.
on 1 July 2001
i love everything about TDC, even their often criticised points - pomposity, jokes, overblown orchestral bits - these are what makes them FUN. it doesn't stop their melodies from being beautiful, (the dogs and the horses) hummable (i challenge you never to sing along to "woman of the world") intense (through a long and sleepless night). i urge you to buy Casanova. as for me, i haven't brought myself to buy Regeneration yet... i need time to adjust to the idea of an irony-free divine comedy...
on 21 November 2000
the divine comedy have produced many a great song and many a great album, but none can rank with this, as it stands far and above their other works for consistency and quality.
The album opens with the song that first attracted me to the divine comedy - something for the weekend, with its cheery brass section hiding the sad story of a woman fooling a man with love/man's greed for sexual fulfillment. 'becoming more like alfie' another single is as catchy with its perceptive lyrics such as 'everybody knows that no means yes just like glasses come free on the NHS'
Next comes one of the standout tracks 'Middle Class Heroes' where Neil Hannon lifts from Hamlet and from many a fortune teller to weave a tale of modern suburbia and 'tasteless tie dyed table cloths that double up as evening wear.
In and Out of Paris and London follows...next comes Charge. a sexual metaphor using a military battle as a metaphor for intercourse.
songs of love (theme tune of father ted) is a lovely little ditty where 'pale pubescent beast roam through the streets and coffee shops'
the highlight for me is 'through a long and sleepless night' which proves that neil hannon can out angst bands such as the manics with style. 'its four o'clock and alls not well in my private circle of hell, i contemplate my navel hair and slowly slide into despair' he sings.
there is no bad song on this album. some of hannon's quirks might annoy some, like the faux musical stylings of 'woman of the world' or the pomposity of charge or through a long and sleepless night but hannon hits more than he misses and has made a quintessential, quirky album of singalong tunes backed with a fine musical accompliment.
This is the album that got divine comedy noticed. and would rate in my top 10 albums of all time.
on 20 March 2009
The third Divine Comedy long player 'Cassonova' is chiefly remembered as home to big hit singles 'Something For The Weekend', 'The Frog Princess' and 'Becomming More Like Alfie'. It also broke, thanks to patronage of a then flying Chris Evans, the band not only in the Uk but also accross much of mainland Europe.
All of which is surprising as 'Cassonova' is a wildy varied album that takes in pop, folk, baroque and audacious orchestral arrangements, show tunes, lashings of Scott Walker and more tongue twisting lyrics than most bands manage in a whole career. Hannon plays his part as lover, loser and Terry Thomas crossed with Sid James. Ecletic is not the word.
The obvious difference from earlier DC records is the sound - lush, beautifully recorded with Hannon's unique baratone high in the mix - and an obvious hike in studio budget.
As with all great records there is more than just singles - 'Songs Of Love' is a simple yet affecting strummer with a beautiful melody, 'Woman Of the World' is a mock show tune just about reigned in by arranger Joby Talbot, 'Charge' a rambling, rumbling, yet absorbing oddity and 'Theme From Cassonova' a grin inducing tongue in cheek name check for Hannon and the band.
It's all very erudite, smart and arch. As with most of the Divine Comedy's output this is'nt an immediate record but take the time to get know 'Cassonova' and it's easy to see why many fans believe this to be Mr H's finest moment.
Funny, heartbreaking and intelligent - Take That and Girls Aloud fans probably need not apply.