a short site about The Divine Comedy


The English have a knack for making perfect coinages out of the most minor blips on the pop music radar. With that in mind, Regeneration is the album Neil Hannon’s Divine Comedy has made in the throes of what the Brits are now calling the “quiet is the new loud” movement. The problem is that quiet has been the new loud before, and when loud turns into the new, new loud again, a record like Regeneration might slip through the cracks (especially with rampant rumors about the band’s impending demise).

It wouldn’t be the first time Hannon has had that experience, especially in America: The Divine Comedy’s first record came out in 1993, and if you count nu-metal and grunge, that was two whole louds ago. It’d be a disgrace if such an oversight happened again, as Regeneration is a fine addition to the catalogue of films, literature and music dedicated to the voyeuristic cruelty of watching people just like you fall apart. It’s the music that should have been playing in the background of Neil LaBute’s film Your Friends and Neighbors - or at the very least, the tail end of an episode of The Mind of the Married Man.

To ease the fall of the myriad breakdowns at the heart of Regeneration, there are lots of winding-staircase guitar figures, string breaks and surges of Hannon’s voice – which, when it hits the higher registers, makes losing your cool sound like something beautiful and virtuous. All of this frame workaday confessionals (“Monday, restate my assumptions / Heaven and hell do not exist… / If you die, you so do at your own risk”) that place Hannon alone in the middle of his bathroom in the dead of night, having once again failed to get drunk, staring straight into the mirror for hours at a time. Fleshed out with a tiny, dolorous orchestra, Regeneration approximates that feeling with a Thom Yorke-ian whimper, a litany of things lost and a map to the shadows in each and every room of Hannon’s house.

Joey Sweeney
Time Out New York 324, 13/12/2001