a short site about The Divine Comedy

Regeneration

Nigel Godrich seems to have the ability to make any act he produces sound more than a little down in the mouth and somewhat reflective. His touch has graced the works of the hardly cheery Radiohead, turned Travis from a band whose first album contained a track called 'Happy' into bits of 'Driftwood' breaking into pieces and even stripped down the day-glo eclecticism of Beck into the far more downbeat, acoustic 'Mutations'. This is no bad thing however as his particular Midas touch may be touched with gloom but polish that away and there's plenty of gold to be found.

Yet the decision of one Neil Hannon to employ him for The Divine Comedy's latest opus seemed a rather strange one. For this is the man used to sharp suits, a somewhat foppish demeanour, very neat hair and a rather smug, ironic take on pop music.

He once wanted to become more like 'Alfie' and of course required 'Something for the Weekend', but the post Y2K version is a far scruffier, inward looking fellow. He has himself described the album as being more "subtle" and less "smart-arsed" and he's not wrong. In fact nearly everything that was once infuriating and irritating about The Divine Comedy has now been eradicated in favour of a new honesty and depth to their sound complete with some genuinely touching moments.

As soon as opener 'Timestretched' comes to life with a fragile, acoustic, often magical quality it's clear that there aren't going to be any knowing eyebrows raised or Carry On style innuendo. 'Bad Ambassador' follows closely displaying Hannon's stunning vocal range which is not disimmilar to that of Thom Yorke, at times reaching soaring highs but also able to be brittle and tender. He truly sounds regenerated as the album's title suggests, and far more impassioned than before. The trademark lush, grandiose strings are still apparent but without the excess baggage of old are far more emotive.

Sidestepping their previous work quite dramatically Hannon's new found angst ridden lyrical direction is full of surprises, mainly because it is so unusual to hear his previously underused voice singing such words. 'Dumb It Down' states that, "Everything is mindless fluff, Like this world's not dumb enough," then asks, "Does anybody feel the same as me? Is anybody listening?" Quite a turn around from his last incarnation as all knowing dandy boy, it's nice to see what he has to offer when he's in a bad mood.

So Godrich has worked his magic once more, but not without yet more great material to tinker with, showing that after all this time Neil Hannon had some magic up his sleeve. In fact he couldn't have put it better himself, this album may be smart but is pretty much devoid of any arse.

8/10


Josh Rogan
Launch 13/03/2001