Parlephone – 2001 – 49 minutes
Picture a mod-suited Neil Hannon and imagine the seductive, orchestrated sounds of the Divine Comedy's back catalogue. Then place that image on a shelf to gather dust. Mr Comedy is back – but without the tailoring – sporting long tresses and a completely different sound.
The stripped back, low-key production is probably due to the presence of Nigel Godrich, the man behind Radiohead's 'Kid A' but Hannon's unmistakable vocals provide one of the few links to the back catalogue, as do occasional flashes of his tongue-in-cheek cockiness. The production may be under-stated but the songs are a worthy collection of his prismatic view of the world. Just when we think Hannon is staring at his fingernails in a bored, aloof manner, he hits us in the gut with something unexpectedly poignant or political. In a sense, he’s still Casanova, who inverts the art of the love-song but the old romanticism still seeps into this work in a quietly confident way.
'Regeneration' sounds as if Neil Hannon has finally grown-up, whether we wanted him to or not. However, this bout of musical maturity is not without a reappraisal of musical influences and conspicuous nods to the past. This is most evident in the subtle acoustic pangs of Timestretched, which stirs up echoes of Eleanor Rigby. The guitars versus orchestra approach of Bad Ambassador sounds like a beginner’s guide to Ziggy Stardust. There are definite Radiohead touches and overtones, largely due to the presence of the Godrich, but there are some brilliant percussive flourishes throughout. Every sound, note and loop is extracted with care, and used in an under-stated manner for maximum effect. It’s not full-on minimalism, but there’s not much on this album that is superfluous. The comedy is not quite so prevalent, and it’s not exactly divine, but nonetheless, 'Regeneration' is the most likeable and listenable work Mr Hannon et al have released for quite a while.
Tracklisting: Timestretched - Bad Ambassador - Perfect Lovesong - Note to Self - Lost Property - Eye of the Needle - Love what you do - Dumb it down – Mastermind – Regeneration - The Beauty Regime