a short site about The Divine Comedy

French version

Hannon and Bawl

The good news is that The Divine Comedy's comeback single, 'Love What You Do', has already been playlisted on national radio - on Radio 2, that is. The bad news comes from Radio 1, who have deemed Neil Hannon's newly dishevelled group as "no longer relevant" to the hard house station's glossy remit. For a man who's spent his entire career toying archly with the concept of cultural relevance, this shouldn't be too big a blow; more a final affirmation. popularity, if you recall, played havoc with Hannon's rarefied senses. Songs about buses and all that.

And today's chosen route? From urbane to urban, it seems, via Radiohead. 'Brave' sixth album, 'Regeneration', their major label debut, may boast an embittered lament named 'Dumb It Down', but it's The Divine Comedy who appear before us at this soulless industry-heavy showcase not in sharp suits but faded denim and logo-ed T-shirts, bringing with them more hair and - grrr! - something called attitude.

If Hannon once looked down his nose at us, he now peers out through the curtains of his ruffled centre-parting. Which is considerably more preferable to his olde foppish persona and, well, more realistic, too. The overblown pretensions and affectations which caused last album, 'Fin De Si├Ęcle', to drown in a sea of its own self-satisfied smugness have not been entirely erased. Rather, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich has channelled these energies into manufacturing a striking new Divine Comedy sound, albeit one that'll be familiar to owners of 'The Bends' and 'OK Computer'.

Sonically, then, they've become cleverer, meaning the rum gallop of 'Tonight We Fly' and the excruciating 'Generation Sex' sound flimsy and lightweight, relics of a bygone, carefree era displayed to accentuate 'Regeneraton''s thrusting modernity. They play all its 11 songs tonight, a collection which reveals a pragmatic and slightly jaded Hannon, a recently married man clearly prone to the odd bout of soul-searching misery. But while the Led Zeplite 'Regeneration' paints an uncharacteristically morose still life, nothing prepares you for Hannon's "What the fuck is happening?!/What the hell's going on?!" Yorke-like techno-rage outburst during the grunge-drone of 'Note To Self'. What a Creep.

We're treated to the soaring Kravitzfunk of 'Bad Ambassador' and a genuinely pretty couple named 'Lost Property' and 'Perfect Lovesong', the latter optimistically introduced as "our first Number One single" - yes dear, keep taking the tablets.

Observing where and how The Divine Comedy fit in the scheme of things this side of the millennium ought to prove a mildly diverting pastime. For those with better things to do, Radio 2 should keep you up to speed.

Piers Martin
NME 10/02/2001