a short site about The Divine Comedy


Now at a mere 31 years of age and with seven albums and countless singles under his belt, Neil Hannon started out more than a bit precocious. Fusing British blueblood witticisms and often sexual wordplay with grandiose orchestral arrangements, he’s often come off sounding like an appealingly pompous mix of Noel Coward, Scott Walker, the Pet Shop Boys, and Pulp. But with Regeneration, that precocity had been tempered by a whiff of maturity. Not to say that he doesn’t still demonstrate a rare wit, but it’s been toned down a bit. Left behind are the obscure references to Alfie and woodsheds and pollen counts, all of which is heady delight for us Anglophiles. Also gone is the divinely inspired, but sometimes over-the-top, orchestrations; his last studio album, Fin de Siècle, featured over 100 musicians.

Regeneration is pared down, but hardly spare. Nigel Godrich, who produced Radioead’s last several albums, knows how to make Hannon’s songs more accessible, but also reveals a tender beauty and simplicity that sometimes got lost in the mines of horns and strings. It comemnces with the gorgeous acoustic ‘Timestretched’, followed by ‘Bad Ambassador’, a sweeping, raffish, funky paean to desire that segues into ‘Perfect Lovesong’, which, while lilting and level, treads Billy Joen territory. Godrich makes his mark on ‘Note to Self’, which fluctuates between a spoken word laundry list of resolutions into a grand Radiohead-esque chorus. There’s a theme of self satisfaction but also longing here, for possessions (‘Lost Property’), for a sign of God in this secular world (‘Eye of the Needle’), for smarts (‘Dumb it Down’), all couched in subtle strings and horns and lots of guitars. This is Hannon’s regeneration of sorts, and it’s absolutely divine.

Luann Williams
Pop Culture Press 2001