a short site about The Divine Comedy

Smooth Talker

Neil Hannon makes not wholly ironic album shock. Father Ted songs still unreleased.

Where once The Divine Comedy could be relied upon to be as to be as light, frothy and sophisticated as a cappuccino, Fin De Siècle finds the archest man in pop playing Noel Coward in his twilight years. It's still wittily ironic and the huge orchestral arrangements are in place but death permeates the album, Hannon's last for small Irish independent label Setanta, like cigarette smoke.

Life On Earth is a post-funeral singalong, Generation Sex tackles the death of Diana and even the uptempo Stephen Sondheimisms of Here Comes The Flood are the sheen on a song gleefully cataloguing some feasible endings of mankind. National Express is the exception to the mood, an invigorating slice of mid-'60s swinging pop featuring a more typical Fin De Siècle thought, "It's hard to get by/When your arse is the size of a small country."

Sunrise rounds off the album with the faintest of glimmers of hope but even then he can't resist the moribund "Who'll care when you're six feet underground?" Strangely, in lessening his ironic grip Neil Hannon seems more approachable than ever before.

4/5
Like this? Thry these... Noel Coward The Master's Voice: His HMV Recordings, Pet Shop Boys Please, Pulp Different Class.
Anthony Thornton
Q Magazine 10/1998