Neil Hannon’s 10th album as the Divine Comedy contains few surprises — but who would want it to? Once again the Dublin-based, Derry-born writer and producer festoons his lush torch songs with wit and whimsy.
The result is a bit of a Cadbury’s Creme Egg of a record: Rich and sweet but in parts very much an acquired taste.
Foreverland, his first new collection in six years, ushers the listener into a thoroughly Hannon-esque neverland of swirling strings, giddy horns and happy/sad lyrics, chiefly concerned with nostalgia and yearning (though for what, exactly, is never quite clarified).
Thus, fans of early Divine Comedy records such as Liberation and Promenade will find much to enjoy, with ‘Catherine The Great’ bringing together Hannon’s talents for fluttering arrangements and wordplay that come off as simultaneously quippy and profound.
In the same vein is ‘I Joined the Foreign Legion (To Forget)’ — has a song ever sported a more Hannon redolent title? — wherein the dilettante-esque troubadour blends Victoriana and alt.rock fervour, with results that suggest an indie disco afterparty held at the 1851 Great Exhibition.
Such archness merely underscores those moments when Hannon is communicating from the heart, such as on ‘Other People’, a fairly searing rumination on jealousy within a relationship and the unabashedly gushing ‘The One Who Loves You’, a 15-candle valentine to his significant other.
The really good news news is that the smugness that characterised the Divine Comedy’s late-Nineties stint as a chart star has been thoroughly exorcised — Hannon often sounds clever but never self-satisfied or sneery (qualities that has made made hits such as ‘The National Express’ retroactively unlistenable).
True across a dozen tracks, Hannon recycles many of his familiar tricks and tropes. But if you’re a fan — and 20 years in, he is presumably very much playing to his own crowd — then you’ll adore every wisecrack and glimmer of heartfelt wonder.
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