DC Records [Release date 07.06.19]
Never one to do things by halves, Neil Hannon and the Divine Comedy return with a double album, three years after their last album ‘Foreverland’. As the album’s title suggests it has a loose theme based around the office and how everday life is changing in the face of rapid technological change. It also sees the return of a previous character or two, including Billie Bird.
‘Absolutely Obsolete’ is a guest filled song featuring Cathy Davey, Chris Difford (Squeeze) and Thomas Walsh (Pugwash, The Duckworth Lewis Method), whilst ‘Dark Days Are Here Again’, with a funereal choral part, is a brooding number with not much hope in the lyric. However, it is not all doom and gloom though as Neil Hannon has a natural knack of penning comedic lines, such as ‘See that PowerPoint presentation, worthy of a BAFTA nomination’ on the title track. This one sounds a bit like a jam with the Pet Shop Boys.
‘The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale’ features plenty of synths and effects, along with Neil Hannon rattling off more makes of a synthesiser than you can shake a stick at. Interestingly he manages to cram in as many of his musical influences (Japan, Thomas Dolby, Art Of Noise are but three in a long list) as he can as the computer in the song asks him about music, one of many questions it poses to Hannon during the course of the spoken word ‘Psychological Evaluation’.
The two songs released off the album to date, namely ‘Queue Jumper’ and ‘Norman and Norma’, are unsurprisingly amongst the most instant songs on here. ‘Norman and Norma’ is a classic Divine Comedy tune, in that it tells the tale of an everyday couple trying to recapture their initial spark after a life of raising children and being married. They find that sparks comes back in the unlikely form of Saxon and Norman battle re-enactment!
As Neil Hannon says “I do try to make normal records, but it always seems to wander off into odd territories” and for this we are eternally grateful. I mean, who else would have the idea to make an accessible and comical song based on musical avant-garde composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, called ‘Phillip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company’.
Want to know what quirky pop genius sounds like? Listen to ‘Office Politics’ as the Divine Comedy give us a masterclass in it. ****1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
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