a short site about The Divine Comedy

Absent Friends

Mr Tongue-In-Cheek's limp return

You have to go back to 1996's 'Casanova' to find Neil Hannon on his game. An unabashed attempt to be Scott Walker, it was foppish, arch and sophisticated and just the right side of tongue-in-cheek funny. 'Absent Friends', with similar large-scale orchestration, is his attempt to reclaim lost ground. In the past, Hannon was the lonely artist trying to make sence of love and rejection. Here, parenthood and didgy goings-on during business trips to Belgium play on his mind. It's all terrifically grown-up, but also very hit and miss. The title track is a belter, build around overblown orchestral flourishes and a yearning for things that have moved on. But 'Leaving Today', with the image of a tearful Hannon having a final peek into the nursery, is mawkish and plain wrong, while 'The Happy Goth' - dark on the outside, smiling on the inside - is clumsy. It's a mixed-up album that should have been so much better.

5/10

Paul McNamee
NME 27/03/2004