Release Date: Sep 2, 2016
Record label: Divine Comedy Records
“Let’s talk of Catherine the Great, let’s talk of love and the power of the state”. OK, yeah, why not? Catherine II of Russia was, after all, the most renowned and longest-reigning female leader in the country’s history (thanks, Wikipedia!) and hers is a story worth exploring. Or, on the other hand, she could be the subject of a three-minutes-and-five-seconds pop ditty on an indie band's first album in six years.
Plenty of bands and artists have tried to perfect chamber pop into an ideal mixture classical ideas, instrumentation, and compositions with modern sensibilities and textures. Some end up landing mostly in the pop category with a few strings and horns sprinkled in, other veer far into the experimental and lose any pop appeal entirely. But Neil Hannon, leader and only consistent member of the Divine Comedy, apparently hit the ideal balance sometime in the late ‘90s and just keeps running with it.
It’s been a strange sort of year. The world has seemed in a constant state of flux, cultural heroes are dead and buried and a huge aura of uncertainty hangs over, not just the country, but the whole world. It’s all a bit scary. Which is why a new Divine Comedy album is such a comfort. For Neil ….
The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon has always had a knack for characterisation in his songs. From the mournful laments of “A Lady Of A Certain Age” on Victory For The Comic Muse to the life-affirming contentment of “The Happy Goth” on Absent Friends, Hannon has an ability to bring characters and emotions to life that’s pretty much unparalleled. With his eleventh album the orchestral pop musician is reigniting the everyday affection that comes once you’ve settled down into a happily ever after.
In 2010, The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon put together the music for the musical Swallows and Amazons. This endeavor was a long time coming with The Divine Comedy's albums becoming increasingly more theatrical. The latest, Foreverland, has obviously been heavily influenced by that stage experience, as it is the longtime group's most theatrical output, with a strong narrative tone-if not concept-running through its 12 songs.
The follow-up to 2010's fun but frivolous Bang Goes the Knighthood, Foreverland continues to follow Neil Hannon's descent into happiness, offering up an amiable 12-track set that manages to locate the semi-sweet spot between treacly and savory. Hannon wastes little time in doling out the confectionaries, lampooning his fame and stature on the winking "Napoleon Complex," a jocular bit of chamber pop fluff that provides a nice litmus test for what's to come. Hannon's pure pop acumen has always helped to temper some of his flightier tendencies, and that knack for taming preciousness with melodic might lends a nice charge to Foreverland's first single, "Catherine the Great.