on 29 May 2010
I listened to this album through in its entirety three times on the first day I had it. Can't remember the last time I did that. It has a different sound to his last few albums, or indeed, any of his albums (but it probably sounds a bit more like his earlier stuff in that it's more playful, perhaps). It's more poppy than the last few, funnier, and perhaps a bit more adventurous, which is maybe due to less reliance on an orchestra. And the pictures and stories he manages to paint with his lyrics and his music are as strong here as they've ever been, if not more so. "Down in the Street Below" is simply beautiful. "Neapolitan Girl" is fast and bouncy with a dark undercurrent. "Island Life" is soaring and tranquil. It has a more coherent sound than the last Divine Comedy album, and you get the impression that Neil Hannon is simply happier these days and making the kind of music that's closest to his heart, after some quite sombre albums over the last decade.
There's one bit on the album that's bound to divide opinion, though... you'll know it the second you hear it!
One of the main feelings after listening is that there's certainly nobody else making music like this these days. It sounds entirely different to anything else, so in that respect he's carved a lovely little niche for himself. After all, what other modern artist would create a song that includes the line "Ben's impressed by the buttresses thrust up the chapel nave"? Well done, Mr. H.
I wouldn't pay much attention to the "BBC Review" that Amazon has put up, by the way, which seems to spectacularly miss the point of it all. Indie Disco isn't a "swipe" at anything - it's pretty obviously an affectionate song. It's a shame that someone with a clear dislike of Hannon's quirky style becomes the 'official' voice of Amazon's product page.
on 4 August 2010
It happens every time. I listen to TDC's new album and think, "Oh it isn't as good as... insert name of previous album ..." Then I listen to it again and the songs begin to get under my skin and a week later I am playing the bloody thing to death.
I don't know how you do it Neil but I'm glad you do! :-)
on 30 August 2010
Looking at some of these reviews, there's a lot of people who appear to take this musician and his records a little too seriously for their own good. The whole point of the Divine Comedy was about reflecting on the entwined pathos and humour that is life, but not to linger unhealthily to the extent of wallowing in navel-gazing! Sure, the classical arrangements can be complex and are clearly part of what sets Neil Hannon's music apart from the everyday. So are the clever,occasionally linguistically challenging and tongue-twisting lyrics, so much so that Hannon increasingly has a hard time remembering them on the night (witness the recent solo Somerset House concert, which he still managed to sail through, thanks to ad-libbing and terrific rapport with the audience). That's not going to get any easier, but it's his own fault for being drawn to the whimsical and literary...
Because of the aforementioned complexity (particularly evident on earlier albums, where Hannon was honing his craft)it might not occur to some reviewers that on tracks like 'The Complete Banker', he was actually angry and wanted to make a statement as blunt and crass as the behaviour of his lampoon targets - so the music hall crudeness is apposite. While 'At the Indie Disco' was intended as nothing more or less than a fond and simple nostalgia trip for people of a certain age (not an attempt to be snide at anyone). Again, reviewers with a humour bypass are always going to miss the fun and frolic projected by tracks like 'Assume the Perpendicular', 'The Lost Art of Conversation', 'I Like', 'Island Life' and 'Can You Stand Upon One Leg?' (He is allowed a track dedicated to his little daughter, no?!). Equally, it is a rare talent that can match such a jaunty upbeat melody as 'Neapolitan Girl' with such dark humour. But the light gives contrast to the dark, so we can appreciate the more serious songs - compare 'Have You Ever Been in Love?' with 'When a Man Cries'.
I don't think Hannon has pretensions to be Scott Walker or anyone else really, but like other leading songwriters he has the ability to interpret many styles and just wants to be free to evolve his music as he sees fit. There is clearly a possible future in film scoring (anything is possible if you can pull off a co-penned tribute to er, Cricket).
In the meantime, just be happy with a little ripple of humour laced with decent tunes, to accompany these dark times. The world needs more Hannons!
on 1 June 2010
Bang Goes The Knighthood is Neil Hannon's tenth album trading as the Divine Comedy and the bands first release for over 4 years. Following on from last years excellent top 40 album The Duckworth Lewis Method (with fellow countryman and songsmith Thomas Walsh) this is the Divine Comedy's most accessible and listener friendly release to date.
'At The Indie Disco' is a stripped back and insanely catchy ode to the music of the early 90's, 'I Like' a key changing stomper that has 'hit' written over like no other DC song since 'National Express' and 'The Lost Art Of Conversation' is a tongue twisting, foot tapping and sarcasm laced slice of pure pop.
The quieter and more reflective moments though are always at the heart and soul of Hannon's albums and Bang Goes The Knighthood doesn't dissapoint. 'When A Man Cries' is heartbreaking, 'Have You Ever Been In Love' manages to be both moving and joyful whilst 'Island Life', co sung with Cathy Davey, is simply lovely.
Hannon has definately simplified things this time round and, although the orchestrations and arrangements are still typically DC, the songs are allowed to breath and the excellent songwriting really shines through.
Hannon's skewed take on life, loss and love may not be to everyone's taste but if you've ever wondered what a band featuring Scott Walker, Burt Bacharach and Jeff Lynne would sound like then look no further.
A new Divine Comedy release is always somethign to get excited about. Surely Neil Hannon is the most underrated artist about at present? This latest album is not his most immediately accessible offering - indeed, I was quite underwhlemed at first listen but there is much to savour should you persevere.Should you be huge fan of DC and Mr Hannon, this is still utterly essential.
1. Down In the Street Below - Suitably epic sounding opener detailing a mans doubts that his relationship is the right thing. Catchy and grounded in reality. (9)
2. The Complete Banker - yes, it is a bit juvenile but this is sharp, insanely enjoyable and boombastic. A great Broadway sounding tune about the depression. The first one I got stuck in my head (9)
3. Neapolitan Girl - This is what Neil Hannon does better than anyone else, a jaunty, toe tapper with dark, dark lyrics. Quite brilliant (10)
4. Bang Goes the Knighthood - Bit of a let down, an obvious idea given a fairly tame treatment. Still enjoyable but the first ho-hum song. (6)
5. At The Indie Disco - The BBC review that Amazon have, for reasons best known to themselves, listed here would have you beleive that this is a cynical sneer at indie kids out clubbing. I disagree, I think this a spot on and sentimental view of a scene - one that I grew up in and first heard Divine Comedy records at! (9)
6. Have You Ever Been In Love - This is the kind of sweeping, uplifting ballad-ish sort of song that The Divine Comedy do so well. This is great but suffers in comparison to other efforts on earlier albums (8)
7. Assume The Perpindicular - a song about admiring the unusual architecture of National Trust properties. Joyfully daft in the way the National Express was - though not quite hitting those heights. I can think of no other songwriter who could pull this off. (8)
8. The Lost Art Of Conversation - I can't get into this one yet. I recognise its clever and appreciate Tommy Walsh turning up on Backing Vocals. I think it may be a grower but at the momet it is a bit so-so for me. (6)
9. Island Life - I wasn't sold on this to start with but it has grown on me. Divine Comedy meets Harry Belafonte. Sound weird, and is. Give it a few spins though. (8)
10. When A Man Cries - Ok, everyone seems to be saying this song is the masterpiece on the album. Hmmm, I'm in the minority here but I can't agree. I think its a touch mawkish to be honest. It is certainly a well written song and I really don't dislike it at all but it is not my favourite. (7)
11. Can You Stand Upon One Leg - Brilliantly funny on the first listen, less so each time you hear it. Unlike most DC humourous songs this is actually a novelty song. I like it very much but can see this being one that get skipped in future. (6)
10. I Like - I like that this song reminds me about the thing I like in my partner in a brillaint way, all puns intended. (9)
on 10 December 2012
I heard The Divine Comerdy(Neil Hammond) sing 'National Express' courtesy of my husband Myles some years ago- and thought it was well-crafted and melodic, clever - but emotionally not engaging. We were lucky enough to get the chance to see the man in peron recently in London's Royal Festival Hall and he played for 2 1/2 hours - including all the tracks from this album, with guest singers including Alion Moyet. It was so exciting, spiritually uplifting and emotional I couldn't wait to get the album - and what a pleasure! Of course, nothing beat the tangible excitement of a brilliant live performance - but this album i so well put together, it is perfect car music - can sit in a traffic jam and think about the economy ( the complete banker) with a mile
- great songs, great moods, great food for thought.
on 2 June 2010
After a little while away, The Divine Comedy (less a 'band' than a shifting group of musicians surrounding singer-songwriter and frontman Neil Hannon) are back with a new album, 'Bang Goes the Knighthood'. Hannon has made quirky, unconventional pop his own over the last couple of decades, and this album follows in the tradition of The Divine Comedy's very best work. It offers a neat balance between pithy character-driven yarns taking pot-shots at fallen pillars of the establishment such as 'The Complete Banker' (an entertaining caricature of irresponsible and reckless city bankers and their excess) and 'Bang Goes The Knighthood', to those with a darker undertone - 'Neapolitan Girl', for instance, whose jaunty melody is a contrast to its subject matter - and a few songs which revel in the kind of silliness few other than Hannon can get away with ('Can You Stand Upon One Leg'.
It's genuinely pleasing to see such an accomplished effort from the DC, and hopefully this might attract a few new fans who may have discovered Neil Hannon via last year's 'The Duckworth Lewis Method' project (if you haven't heard it, check it out - far better than I ever thought a cricket-themed concept album could be), who'll no doubt be glad to hear Duckworth Lewis collaborator Thomas Walsh making a couple of guest appearances here. When there's arguably so little room for such distinctive voices to thrive in the musical mainstream, it's heartening to see Hannon sticking very much to his guns, and continuing to produce such wonderful material. If you're a Divine Comedy fan of old, 'Bang Goes the Knighthood' is everything you'll be hoping for - and if you're new to the band, it's a great place to start. I can't recommend this enough.
Incidentally, if you're able to, try and opt for the Limited Deluxe Edition, which boasts an additional live CD recorded at the Cité de la Musique in Paris. It's well worth it if you can track a copy down.
on 9 June 2010
This is a wonderful album, full of the sort of jolly yet sad, catchy, kitsch drenched pop songs that you would expect from Neil Hannon.
Really lovely from start to finish and the bonus live disc works so well too!
A fine addition to the The Divine Comedy collection.
Well done Mr Hannon!
The last DC album had one wonderful track ("An English Lady of a Certain Age") and several decent ones, but overall it was disappointing and when I started listening to "Bang Goes the Knighthood", my expectations weren't high. However, the new album is not only better than its predecessor, but arguably one of the best things that Neil Hannon has ever done.
Most DC albums have a few duds - tracks that would be perfectly good anywhere else, but don't measure up to Hannon's best (e.g. "The Mysterious World of Arthur C Clarke" versus "The Certainty of Chance"). What's remarkable about this album is that the quality remains consistently high from start to finish.
As someone who rarely bothers listening to lyrics, I always make an exception for Neil Hannon and on this album he's in particularly good form. Who else would write lines like this:
"Crunch up the gravel driveway, gasp at the grand facade
Just for today we're lords and ladies, oh what a gay charade!
Lavinia loves the lintels - Anna, the architraves
Ben's impressed by the buttresses thrust up the chapel knave
I can't abide a horizontal life
It's time to rise, assume the perpendicular
Jump up and down, make funny little sounds
And talk about nothing in particular"
But what particularly impressed me was the quality of the music itself, which continually surprised me with unpredictable changes in key and tempo. Neil Hannon has always known how to write a good tune, but on his last album I felt as if he wasn't trying hard enough to rise above the expected. There is no question of that in the new album.
In many ways this is a typical Divine Comedy album, with tracks that range from the catchy, foot-tapping numbers to heartbreakingly beautiful songs, but there is also something new here too. Neil Hannon's growing reputation as one of the greatest living songwriters could rest on this album alone. This album will be the soundtrack to my summer.
I'm disappointed that a couple of people in the music press have written damning reviews, particularly as this album is of such a high standard. I can't help thinking that if you don't "get" what Neil Hannon is about, then you shouldn't be reviewing his work. Judge the new album by the standards set by its predecessors, not by pointless to comparisons to other genres.
on 10 June 2010
Neil Hannon is criticised in this album for being, quoting the BBC review, "smug, trivial and infuriatingly self-amused".
The problem I've got with these bad reviews is that the reviewers are so hypocritical. They think they're being so clever and entertaining in their writing, inventing painfully 'trivial' variations on the title, such as "Bang Goes The Quality Control" (which they must have been very proud of), when, in reality, they themselves come across as just what they are criticising Hannon for being: 'smug' and 'infuriatingly self-amused'.
I just can't see how anyone as 'smug' and 'infuriatingly self-amused' as the writers of these reviews can be any judges of how 'smug' and 'self-amused' ANYONE is, let alone Neil Hannon.
Anyway, I understand what they're trying to say, despite their hypocritical way of saying it. I see how Neil Hannon can be seen as 'smug' but I disagree. I think that you've just got to see the songs as silly and a bit of a laugh, instead of going into so much analysis of the lyrics and what does-and-doesn't make you cringe. I actually didn't find any cringe-worthy lyrics in this album but there have been lyrics in previous albums that have made me cringe. However, I don't see this as a bad thing. I think that the cringey lyrics add to the comic effect. But people take it too seriously and analyse far too much, seeing these cringey lyrics as failed jokes, rather than just a bit of silliness. Anyhow, take it as it is and enjoy it, I say. I definitely did.
I think this is the best Divine Comedy album yet and one of the best albums I've ever heard in general. The humour is top-form and the music to accompany Hannon's genius lyrics is fantastic. The other reviews sum up the musical elements better, I just wanted to point out the hypocrisy of the bad reviews.
I'd definitely buy it again, though.