If Neil Hannon ever decides that the cycle of album-tour-album must come to an end, he really should sit down and write a musical.

Two characters that he could base an entire show around appear on 'Victory for the Comic Muse's best moments: the hormonal desperado of 'To Die a Virgin' and the what-might-have-been widow of 'A Lady of a Certain Age'.

These polar opposite songs encapsulate Hannon's gift for mood jumping, and had everything here been as strong as them, he could've retired to contemplate his future Sondheim-challenging career with immediate effect.

Instead, this album is never less than enjoyable but doesn't hit those heights again. The melodies are strong, the lyrics throughout are excellent and even the galloping cover of The Associates' 'Party Fears Two' isn't sacrilegious -but your mind always finds its way back to those two tracks.

For them alone, 'Victory for the Comic Muse' is worth buying. And perhaps you'll grow to love the others in a way that virgin and lady of a certain age never thought was possible.

Harry Guerin