Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1996 4th album Casanova by The Divine Comedy, but was this worth laughing about? Read on…
This 11 track opens with lead hit single Something For The Weekend, aptly opening with a ‘Hello‘ from lead singer Neil Hannon whilst girls giggle in the background. The song has a distinct 60’s feeling to it – something that the video indulges in too. The lyrics are slick and somewhat quirky (about something in the wood shed – is that a euphemism?), and the backing vocals sit perfectly under Neil’s soft speak-singing style. The constant snare beat makes this song feel like it’s galloping along. The song gave the group their commercial breakthrough after heavy play from DJ Chris Evans. It reached #14 in the UK chart.
Next up is second single Becoming More Like Alfie, which continues the up-beat snare-heavy tempo although feeling a bit more along the lines of Britpop. Neil’s vocals are much stronger, richer and deeper here, and it’s a pretty catchy song too. Despite this, the song stalled at #27.
Middle Class Heroes follows this, opening with more spoken word ‘Hello, what do we have here – a young lady!’ as if he’s some 60’s Avengers character. Instead, this song takes the form of fortune telling, as after a lengthy intro, Neil gets on with singing his mute customer. The song plods along and feels a little meandering, making it hard to feel you could sing along.
This is followed by In And Out Of Paris And London, which just sounds like a parody of itself – musically and vocally. The piano and the vocals feel a bit too disjointed to make this song sound like one i’d want to listen to again.
Charge by contrast has a wonderful sound to it – particularly the piano and bass sound wonderful here, and give the song great pace and a perfect platform for Neil’s vocals to project from, until the mid-section where he seems to be possessed by Barry White and Austin Powers and then Prince. Once this steps aside, the song builds up to a dramatic ending.
‘Pale pubescent beasts roam through the streets and coffee-shops’ sings Neil, as Songs Of Love opens. Apparently this song is a reworked version of Neil’s theme that was used as the theme to comedy series Father Ted. This time there’s oodles of Harpsichord – reminding me a little of Golden Brown by The Stranglers…okay, a little bit.
Third and final single The Frog Princess follows this, and this is quite a nice little mellow song. There’s some fun whistle and trumpet moments in-between the louder piano and vocal parts. During the verses, the piano gently tinkles along as Neil’s vocals compliment it with some soft, deep, vocals which are lifted by the chorus perfectly. The single gave the group a #15 UK hit single.
A Woman Of The World follows this – a song that apparently was also a candidate for the Father Ted theme but didn’t make it. This song starts off with a downbeat organ before switching over to more 60’s bouncy organ before whistling arrives. There’s a wonderful saxophone here, and later a brass section, that joins Neil’s vocals. His voice is strong and warm, delivering some fun lyrics and he’s joined by backing singers for the second verse in an almost 40’s musical number. I find this song quite catchy – even the over-dramatic mournful vocals of the chorus.
Up next is Through A Long And Sleepless Night – with a sound that reminds me of something spacey or maybe alarm clock beeping. It builds up before the beat and bass arrives with Neil’s affected vocals. There’s an urgency to his vocals here, aided with the pace of the rhythm. The song weighs in at 6m 13s and really goes for it towards the end with huge strings, guitars, and big vocals from Neil too.
The penultimate song begins as a mock interlude with spoken credits, itself introducing the song properly as Theme From Casanova. The announcer called it ‘the haunting theme’ and to some degree it is a bit downbeat. It’s full of a simple trumpet, organ, strings, and lots of la-la-la-las. Other than this, there’s no real vocals to the song.
The album closes with The Dogs And The Horses, a song about death. This is definitely a sad, dark and huge song. It sounds like it belongs on a soundtrack or a musical. Neil’s vocals are suitably sad, perhaps even sinister, and pitched against the full orchestra, he sounds superb, and it works perfectly. A fantastic end to this album.
Where are The Divine Comedy now?
This was the group’s fourth album, and the first to make the chart. It was swiftly followed by A Short Album About Love in 1997.
This was followed by their most successful (so far) studio album Fin de Siecle in 1998, which gave them a #9 hit album. The album was followed by their first Best Of, which gave them a #3 hit.
The group have continued to release albums and perform, and Neil has also given his vocals to other projects including vocals to a Doctor Who soundtrack, and to Tom Jones’ career re-boot album Reload (1999).
The groups most recently charting album in the UK was 2010’s Bang Goes The Knighthood which took them to #20. Their most recently charting single was To Die A Virgin in 2006, which stalled at #67.
In 2015, The Divine Comedy announced that they were working on their new album, their 11th, for release in early 2016.
POP RESCUE ‘CASANOVA’ RATING:
Over all, if the Mike Flowers Pops-esque 60’s indulgence grates on you, then this really isn’t your album. There’s some high points – Something For The Weekend (minus the creepy spoken word bits and giggling girls in these post-Operation Yewtree days), The Dogs And The Horses, and The Frog Princess, and a few others, but it feels a bit fragmented and awkward in other tracks, on the verge of self parody, or an attempt to be an Austin Powers album.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1996 UK CHART PEAK: #48, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE COST £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.