a short site about The Divine Comedy

It’s A Man’s World

“Women usually want to know if it’s real,” jokes Neil Hannon, the braintrust behind the Divine Comedy. “Not if it’s real.. ‘cause it is. They want to know if I am what the papers say. They always find out that I absolutely am not. It’s embarrassing for me and frustrating for them. But does any of it mean anything?”

Hannon is referring to the praise greeted Casanova (Setanta), his third instalment as Britain’s foremost bon vivant, a dashing tunesmith equal parts Scott Walker, Burt Bacharach and Hugh Hefner. Casanova’s scintillating arrangements and melodies have propelled Hannon far beyond U.K. cult status, where tales of female seduction and romantic anguish have Britpop-hating youth raising their pints in toast.

Casanova reels out like a year of hearty promiscuity. ‘Alfie’ describes a character who entices females to satisfy his own lusts; ‘Something For The Weekend’ refers to the lost barber’s custom of proving customers with condoms; ‘Through A Long And Sleepless Night’ is a sordid tale of defeat and rebirth. Oddly enough, Hannon claims his fame hasn’t guaranteed him sexual success.

“It’s just like any job,” he says. “The more women you meet, the more often you’re bound to find someone who will go to bed with you. The Love God is so incredibly not me, though. But it’s good press.”

Part of Hannon’s originality lies in his atypical source material. Citing his obvious debt to Cole Porter and Scott Walker, Hannon names more surprising influences. “My Bloody Valentine, to take what you already have one step further. Kraftwerk, in the enormous tunes that everyone misses. Okay, so they played them on synths, but they’re completely European-sounding. It’s more the attitude I draw from than the sound.”

While most fans across the pond imbibe the Casanova vision while-hog, with its wanton females ripe for the taking, some have criticized Hannon for his conquest. He pities the fools.

“Some very stupid people seem to see something that is not there,” he says. ‘It’s not a misogynist album; it’s anti-male, if anything. I was trying to explain as truthfully as possible what goes through a man’s mind before, during and after. I celebrate it in once instance and curse it in another. I try to show that strange, empty feeling and general confusion that sleeping around created in ‘Through A Long And Sleepless Night’.”

The working-class rock of Oasis, Blur and Dodgy may be taking a back seat to the superior strains of Hannon’s aristocratic, orchestral sound. “I’m not aristocrat,” snaps Hannon. “But I do hope people can appreciate something a little finer. It’s about bloody time. The ‘90s are so confused anyway, maybe they’ll give it a chance.”

Ken Micallef
Alternative Press, 1997