Monday, May 31, 2010

big bang theory

After last year's cricket inspired sojourn with The Duckworth Lewis Method, Neil Hannon returns with suitable flair in his guise as The Divine Comedy. Their tenth longplayer, "Bang Goes The Neighborhood", rings all the right bells.

The usual influences are featured in all their glory. Mr. Hannon's cast of characters are present and accounted for - the quirky and common, the oddballs and ordinary, the eccentrics and everyday. His detailed and descriptive vignettes are sewn together with various sonic touchpoints from the Bacharach and David inspired croon of "Have You Ever Been In Love", to the groovy, 60s, European film soundtrack of "Neapolitan Girl", the Nick Drake flavored "Island Life" and the somewhat cinematic, French chanson of the title track.

Neil Hannon's wry sense of humor is evident throughout in the lyrical content as well as his vocal delivery. Check out the 29 second high note he holds toward the end of the "Can You Stand Upon One Leg" which appears to be unassisted by computer technology. The song sounds like some of Terry Hall's best material. Not sure if Neil and Terry have ever worked together, but I suspect that could be a powerful combination. Are you reading this Neil? You can thank me later for that idea.

The two most singleworthy tracks on the elpee are the thumping, Blur-esque "At The Indie Disco" - which happens to be the album's lead single - and the bright, upbeat, strummy, shimmering, 70s power pop of album closer "I Like".

If you purchase the digital format of TDC's latest masterwork, their are four tracks appended to the running order. The first three don't resemble anything remotely related to the parent album and are, therefore, out of step with the listening experience. There's the dreamy, warbling, 40s soundtrack sample montage, "Ya Sumeera"; the vocodered, electronic swing of the slightly Kraftwerkian "Beside The Railway Tracks"; "The Circular Firing Squad" which marries an industrial synth track and orchestral samples.

The fourth bonus track, "Napoleon Complex", is a proper TDC number without any of the orchestral flourishes or the late 60s, easy listening overtones. And for completists, get your dirty, digital hands on "On The Barge", the Eastern Mediterranean sounding bonus track from the iTunes bundle for "At The Indie Disco".

Overall, "Bang Goes The Knighthood" finds a nice balance between the earlier, lushly orchestrated releases and the more austere arrangements of later works. Douze points!

As of this writing, I haven't delved into the bonus CD of the deluxe edition of the album. It's a nine track, live album of French themed songs recorded at Cité de la Musique. Fun fact... The venue is located in the La Villette quarter of the 19th arrondissement in Paris.

Some of the songs include Eurovision favorite, "Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son" which was written by national treasure, Serge Gainsbourg and originally recorded by France Gall in 1965. Also, the live sessions feature "Joe Le Taxi", a pan European hit for Vanessa Paradis (aka Mrs. Johnny Depp) throughout 1987 and 1988. More to follow on this curious gem once I've slapped it on the old Victrola.

Recently, Monsieur Hannon played a series of very intimate, cabaret, solo shows which featured many songs from the new TDC album along with a few hits cherry picked from his vast catalog of pop nuggets. Here are a handful of nicely shot performances from the Dublin Sugar Club on May 7 of this year.

Love the glass of vino lovingly place on the piano. Neil's comedic timing is impeccable. And his left hand gets quite a workout! Ooh er, missus!

Very clever turn of phrase in "The Complete Banker". Think about it long enough and you'll get it.

And then a few classics...

The flubbed start along with the whistling from the audience, the call and response in the middle section and the soul falsetto at the end all make for a hilarious rendition of "The Frog Princess".

And "National Express" gets a grand helping of audience participation, as well.

Plus "If...", an unexpected song choice from the vaults. It originally appeared on "A Short Album About Love".

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