Album Review – Divine Comedy

Divine Comedy – Office Politics (Divine Comedy Records)

Ever wondered why the Divine Comedy are so adored? Office Politics probably has the answers.

It flows – mixing songs together that are so different on paper that in other hands they would be a mess. Witness the way that the glam influenced ‘Infernal Machines’ is followed by the South American jazz of ‘You’ll Never Work In This Town Again.’ If you ever thought that Neil Hannon and co. simply just aped Noel Coward then think again.

There’s so much here that’s up with his best work – the single ‘Norman and Norma’ is one of his story songs, about the couple whose marriage seems to stagnate after their three daughters leave home, until it’s surprisingly rekindled by getting involved in Battle re-enactments. I’m really not sure of any other artists who would come up with a song on such a theme – and make it so catchy. Or ‘Philip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company’ – the imagined theme for a TV show about minimalist composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich running a furniture removal company in 1960s New York City. What’s so impressive about this is how it really does sound like Messrs Glass and Reich… yet unmistakably the Divine Comedy. Go figure.

At sixteen tracks (thirty-one on the deluxe edition, with its demos of Hannon’s stage adaptation of Swallows and Amazons) there’s a lot to take in, and it’s not an album to simply put on in the background. Do yourself and the album justice by paying proper attention. Mr. Hannon continues to amaze, and some of those hits they are best known for are now a couple of decades ago…

This may well be the only time that Office Politics has been something to submerge yourself in rather than stay out of.

****1/2

Office Politics is out now on Divine Comedy Records

Forthcoming from the Divine Comedy

There’s many curious other alternative worlds, one of which is the one where the Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon remained obsessed with shoegazing music, and didn’t explore the wonderful world of the last twenty-five years. We do truly live in the best of all possible worlds.

Their new album Office Politics is out this Friday, perhaps the first time that anyone will say that office politics are best avoided, and the latest single to be released is ‘Norman and Norma’ of which Mr. Hannon says: ‘”At some point I wrote the words Norman And Norma in my notebook. I don’t know why. I suppose I just liked the sound of the words. I’ve always been interested in the Normans (the conquest people). Perhaps that had something to do with it. Then I remember getting out of bed one morning singing something like the chorus. It’s always scary when you write an opening line like – Norman and Norma got married in Cromer, April 1983 – and you realise you’re going to have tell their whole story.”

It’s gorgeous, as is the video, which you can see below.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Queuejumper
2. Office Politics
3. Norman And Norma
4. Absolutely Obsolete
5. Infernal Machines
6. You’ll Never Work In This Town Again
7. Psychological Evaluation
8. The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale
9. The Life and Soul Of The Party
10. A Feather In Your Cap
11. I’m A Stranger Here
12. Dark Days Are Here Again
13. Philip And Steve’s Furniture Removal Company
14. ‘Opportunity’ Knox
15. After The Lord Mayor’s Show
16. When The Working Day Is Done

The video for ‘Queuejumper’ was released in April:

There will also be a tour of the British Isles in October 2019:

Sun 6th Dublin, Bord Gais Energy Theatre
Mon 7th Belfast, Ulster Hall
Tue 8th Cork, Opera House
Thu 10th Glasgow, Old Fruitmarket
Fri 11th Birmingham, O2 Institute
Sat 12th Oxford, O2 Academy 1 (sold out)
Mon 14th Bristol, O2 Academy
Tue 15th Leeds, Metropolitan University (Leeds Beckett University)
Wed 16th Brighton, Dome
Thu 17th London, Eventim Apollo
Fri 18th Manchester, Albert Hall (sold out)

The return of…Playing House

Hooray! I’ve been championing previous Playing House releases back in 2016 and 2017, and it’s great to finally have some new music from them.

‘Not Good’ is a change of direction from those first two EPs, with more of an electronic flavour, but as always, the urge to listen to the track again before it has even finished playing is there once again. When Mel Patman sings ‘tell me where you been hiding?’ the urge to yell ‘well, I’ve been waiting for you, too!’

Playing House openly identify as queer, feminist, body positive and readily support such causes, playing at queer spaces and charity events. (That’s the PR man talking, but he’s absolutely spot on!) Through their music conform and express ideas of love, identity , politics, as well as growing up and living outside of the heteronormative. Given the politics of the US and the UK at the moment, this is needed more than ever.

In the words of Mel herself ‘“Not Good is a surrealist look at the absurdity of the ambivalence to all things not good. “It’s a song that could only be written in the surreal reality that we’re living in right now, in the middle of the destruction of the planet, consumerism, inequalities, sexism, increased anxiety and depression. The song takes a pop at ambivalence, watching everything go wrong and doing nothing. It’s also about how those abuses take place in relationships. It was written following a really damaging relationship where there was gaslighting and manipulation but I couldn’t leave. Sometimes the safest thing is ambivalence when you are not permitted the power by people or society to change things. I wanted to write something that is both truthful and empowering.”

I’ve long been convinced that Playing House deserve to be playing massive venues, and hopefully this single will make that one step closer. Welcome back!