The Divine Comedy
Victory For the Comic Muse (Parlophone)
by Tim Den
Finally, composer of symphonic, cinematic, epic ballads Neil Hannon returns to follow-up the magnificent Absent Friends, age and parenthood having had no negative effect on his charm, wit, or craft. Though Victory For the Comic Muse is self-described as an “accidental album,” one would be foolish to think that the songs contained within are any less wonderful than any of The Divine Comedy‘s back catalog. So Hannon has settled into a tranquil, domestic mindset, thanks to his blissful family life, but it just means that he has had look outside of his personal life for subject matter. This new album proves that no matter whose drama he’s writing about, it’s always splendid drama.
As any fan would expect, Victory For the Comic Muse is filled with The Divine Comedy’s trademarked attention to detail. Ornate orchestral arrangements, windswept refrains, galloping percussion, and, of course, a sense of utter Britishness. Hannon’s mixing of “Scott Walker produced by George Martin reworking Joplin tunes” (to quote myself from a previous review) is a bit heavier on the lively side this time, as numbers such as “To Die a Virgin,” “Diva Lady,” and “Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piedmont” trot and frolic as if made for sunny spring afternoons. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: Just a heads-up if you’re expecting a repeat of Absent Friends‘ introspective mellowness. But, of course, if you’re in search of soft croons and torch songs, Victory For the Comic Muse has you covered, too. Check out “The Light of Day,” “Snowball in Negative,” and especially single “A Lady of a Certain Age” for some quality tear-jerking, ’60s French film exquisiteness. And the fact that each song, regardless of its mood, lyrically illustrates fascinating character sketches (as always) is again testament to Hannon’s reputation as a fantastic storyteller.
Though I’m certain that Hannon deserves all the domestic happiness that he’s currently enjoying, Victory For the Comic Muse only makes me hope that he finds more time to put out albums cuz, frankly, we’ve fucking missed ya, chap. Please don’t make us wait another three years for the next album. We need as much output from geniuses like you as possible.