Foreverland is the first album by The Divine Comedy in six years. Neil Hannon has kept himself busy though: His side project The Duckworth Lewis Method released a second album, He’s composed a choral work which was performed at London’s Royal Festival Hall and even written a musical version of Swallows and Amazons. Foreverland thematically covers a lot of ground from historical figures to the French Foreign Legion and is also historically inaccurate, according to Hannon. However, he also says it’s essentially about life and love.
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Despite being ‘pretty big’ in the '90s and having a handful of actual real life hits, The Divine Comedy head honcho Neil Hannon waited until 2010 to make his very best album with the superb ‘Bang Goes The Knighthood’ an album where his songwriting matured like a fine wine yet retained the quirky song stories of yore.
Six years later Hannon is back with an album which exemplifies everything that is good about his arc and clever pop but fails to have the requisite tunes to outdo ‘Bang…’ or get that close to it in terms of consistent quality. The album starts strongly with ‘Napoleon Complex’ a string laden treat of orch pop with the usual Noel Coward croon and clever high pitched vocal hooks. ‘Foreverland’ perfectly exemplifies the problem Hannon sometimes has - first it sits in the total wrong place in the album, a slow paced wandering dirge which kills any early momentum stone dead and it’s melody has a clever start before getting hopelessly lost. The harpsichord-led ‘Catherine Great’ perks things up a bit with some wildly comical lyrics ("she looked so bloody good on a horse") resulting in a very English sounding take on the type of twisty educational story songs They Might Be Giants have made their own.
But what I’m finding is that there are far too many skippable songs to make this a great late period album ‘Funny Peculiar’, ’The Pact’, ’To The Rescue’ and ‘How Can You Leave Me On My Own’ are all either forgettable or annoying though I really did enjoy the Sinatra pastiche ‘I Joined the Foreign Legion’ which is one of my favourite things here. It has a lovely melody and delightful lyric, there's no-one out there making music likes this in 2016 and we should always make time for Neil Hannon’s adventurous way with a tune.
I feel though that whilst containing a few enjoyable moments this is not a patch on ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’ or much of his earlier work.
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