a short site about The Divine Comedy

London W6 Riverside Studios

Three or four years ago, one of the more charming spectacles on the live music scene was a small, skinny fella from Enniskillen donning a cravat and acting like the Marquis de Sade. Neil Hannon was a bookish Casanova, the type who would read Racine to you while sneaking a gloved hand up your skirt. His band, The Divine Comedy, offered more compositional skill for your buck than nearly all their indieland peers languishing in the poverty of a three-chord backwater. Epic, modern-classical sound tapestries, folkish whimsy, bittersweet ballads and flashy cabaret, it all rang with echoes of showmen past - Sinatra, Coward, Bacharach, Morrissey... As one lyric declared, they pitted 'wit against shit'. But things have changed.

Originally, TDC were conceived as an REM-like indie guitar band, and judging from subtler, introspective new album 'Regeneration' (Parlophone) - out March 12 and produced by Nigel Godrich straight after 'Kid A' - seem to be heading back thataway. Even Hannon's usually precise vocals are slightly slurred, his hair's grown, and he's dressing like a skateboarder.

Tonight 'Regeneration' will be played in full so, although some oldies such as 'Becoming More Like Alfie', 'Something For The Weekend' and 'Songs Of Love' (the 'Father Ted' tune) are likely (NB: real fans go to the bar whenever 'National Express' is played), be prepared for an altogether grungier affair.

Whether history will label this new chapter 'The Inevitable Maturing Of Serious Musicians' or 'School Swot Discovers Red Stripe And Makes Tit Of Self' remains to be seen.

Anna Britten
Time Out 01/2001