a short site about The Divine Comedy

Absent Friends

Having tired of the accusation that he was too arch for his own good, Neil Hannon abandoned the charming orchestral flourishes of Casanova and Fin de Si├Ęcle in favour of generic indie pop on the Divine Comedy's previous album Regeneration. The moral? There is a lot more to sincerity than not having violins on your record.

And here's the proof. This time, we get sincerity, violins and some of Hannon's best tunes. Inspired by the birth of his first child, Leaving Today and Charmed Life could have been intolerably soppy. But with joy comes the attendant anxiety at what fortune might have had in store: 'This life', sings Hannon, 'is like being afloat/On a raging sea/In a little rowing boat'.

Much of Absent Friends comes on like a wiser brother to the cocksure chamber pop of 1992's Liberation. Our Mutual Friend shows that Hannon has become a magnificently empathetic observer, while Come Home Billy Bird is the moving account of a father struggling to get home in time for his son's football match ; Hannon simply could not have written a song such as this a decade ago. No less remarkable is the progress of Joby Talbot, whose soaring arrangements ensure that Hannon is never embarrassed by his attempts to emulate Jacques Brel and Scott Walker. In fact, Absent Friends is a glorious vindication of that audacity.

5/

The Times UK - Eye 03/04/2004