a short site about The Divine Comedy

A Short Album About Love

Crack open the bruised and rutted shell that was The Divine Comedy's last album, last year's 'Casanova', and nine months later out rolls a sweet and delicious little fruit.

Just as some poisons can conceal their own antidote, Neil Hannon's jaundiced trawl through the sludge of romantic failure on 'Casanova' only spat out two thirds of his story. The rest of it is this unreserved tribute to the power and glory of love.

Written largely at the same time as 'Casanova' but containing none of that record's tangled spite, 'A Short Album About Love' pulls back the curtains, throws open the windows and hollers into the sunshine that love is the greatest force on earth, that it has the ability to change people and lives for the better and that it can make life worth living for those who may've suspected otherwise. It even features a jaunty tribute to the wonder of unrequited passion, 'Everybody Knows (Except You)'. And though it was recorded simply and quickly during the soundchecks for last year's Shepherd's Bush Empire show (as opposed to the painstaking eight-month studio excavation of 'Casanova'), one suspects that this collection of cynicism-free odes involved a darn sight more soul-searching and inspiration than 'Casanova'. Indeed, two of the seven compositions are among the most affecting and positive love songs ever written.

'Someone' is the first of these, a song cradled in a brooding string arrangement as Hannon recounts simply and deeply how someone took over his life and opened his eyes and heart to a world of unimagined joy and security. "Someone made me see that someone like me needn't be so closed/Simply because they once chose to be", he sings before the Cinemascope widens further to reveal a huge fanfare of horns. "I hardly dare believe it's real," he gushes and a million lonely hearts weep uncontrollably into their sleeves.

'If' takes this theme of devotion further down the line and slowly reels off a list of things that Hannon would do for his new love: "If you were attacked I would kill for you", he croons like a particularly solemn Neil Diamond as the dark oboe and organ-fed melody slowly unwinds, "If your name was Jack I'd change mine to Jill for you". Indeed, if Neil fell in love with you and you were a horse, he'd "clean the crap out of your stable".

The devotion he describes in these tracks doesn't seep into every song, though. 'If I Were You (I'd Be Through With Me)' revels in a chintzy lounge-bar arrangement and wrestles with a conscience that knows it's been treating a lover badly and foresees much, much worse unless someone ends the relationship... but the overall mood is one of total felicity.

Where this leaves Neil Hannon, however, is unclear. Is he the wracked worm of 'Casanova' or the rapt suitor we find here? And if this really is him, how has he packed so much torment and joy into such a short life? Or maybe he knocked this collection off to woo any possible suitors scared off by 'Casanova''s bleakness. Oh yes, that's one of the most remarkable things about this glorious collection of love songs. Neil Hannon is currently single.