a short site about The Divine Comedy


For nearly a decade Neil Hannon has been one of the smartest songwriters working in pop music. His persona – a witty, sarcastic poet writing love songs and pop anthems – is so sharply cultivated that the rest of The Divine Comedy have taken a back seat. In this way, Hannon fronts his band with an even more forceful control than Jarvis Cocker, who will always be the face and the voice of Pulp. In fact, most of The Divine Comedy’s albums come complete with little more than pictures of Hannon’s face in various shades of Mona Lisa emotion.

With their latest album Regeneration, the band hasn’t gotten any more democratic. Hannon’s 11-song list of musings and jokes sounds like a solo effort, with the musicians pushed deep into the background. Gone is the melody-driven pop genius that made early singles like ‘The Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count’ or ‘Europop’ so energetic and accessible. But don’t be mistaken – Hannon is still writing great songs, even if they take longer to grow on you because wistful vocals squash the misty sounds. ‘Mastermind’ is a slow, quiet acoustic ballad that, like the album, reveals its beauty on repeated listens. ‘Bad Ambassador’ and ‘Love What You Do’ are full formed, well-realized confessionals with Hannon’s unique ability to blend depression with optimism.

But the highlight of Regeneration happens to be the most musically relaxed and predictable tune. ‘Perfect Lovesong’ is sarcastically titled, but also surprisingly apropos. The lyrics straddle a line between embarrassingly stupid and shockingly profound, at times dropping the Beatles and the Beach Boys just to fill space, and at other times saying such self-consciously romantic lines as “With just one kiss, I will whisk you way to where angels often tread / We’ll paint this planet red / We’ll stumble back to my hotel bed / And we’ll make love to each other ‘til we’re half dead.” Just as in his career masterpiece single ‘Gin Soaked Boy’, perhaps one of the best song ever written, Neil Hannon uses an almost nursery school simplicity to write fluid rhymes that suggest deeply conflicted ironies as mature and stately as his voice is graceful.


Zach Raiston
Under the Radar, 12/2001