The Divine Comedy – Bang Goes the Knighthood
Neil Hannon has always been a fantastic lyricist. It’s probably the best thing about the Divine Comedy. (That said the music is awesome too). Less than a minute into Bang Goes the Knighthood, you know you’re in for a treat. Who can’t relate to the line “Talk about how the film ain’t half as good as the book”? Fabulous. This is the Divine Comedy’s tenth album, and is probably their best since Fin de Siecle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater of their recent material (Absent Friends still gets regular plays), it’s just that this is a standout record in a career full of brilliance.
Opener ‘Down in the Street Below’ is a gorgeous song about looking at the world through the eyes of others, and features a masterful breakdown and wonderful harmonies. But don’t worry, Hannon is still clever and witty (much like he was on his last release, 2009′s Duckworth Lewis Method). ‘The Complete Banker’ is a typical Hannon-esque look at the banking crisis and those who caused it. The first time I listened to it, I had to check the inlay booklet to see if there was a diagram telling you to pull your mouth apart and say “complete banker”. (Some of the more juvenile among you will know what I’m talking about “My daddy’s a banker”.)
As always, there are songs here to transport you to another world. ‘Neapolitan Girl’ is set in Italy in 1944 after the occupation, and is based on Norman Lewis’ war memoir Naples ’44. The lyrics are totally at odds with the jangly melody. Inspired genius.
I have only mentioned three songs so far and I’ve already run out of superlatives. That’s how this album makes me feel. Definitely a career highpoint.
‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’ is about, well I won’t ruin it on you, but it reminded me of the only good section in Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea. The bridge is utterly splendid though. Lead single ‘At the Indie Disco’ was a perfect choice to show off the album’s strengths. There is sure to be many more tunes selected, but none as fun as this namedropper. This is definitely going to be one of my songs of the summer.
Not all the songs are belters. The title track is a slower, more mellow tune. ‘Have You Ever Been In Love?’ is an old-school romantic song, along the lines of Bacharach and David. Which is exactly what Neil Hannon was going for. Mission accomplished. Similarly, ‘The Lost Art of Conversation’ has a wonderful old-time feel to it. Apart from talking about Frank Lampard in the first chorus, of course. ‘When A Man Cries’ is the saddest tune on the album by far, but Hannon is as easily able to handle this kind of song as he is the more jaunty numbers. The fluttery Alice in Wonderland/Peter Pan feel is fantastic too.
‘Assume the Perpendicular’ is another one of those songs to showcase Hannon’s verbal dexterity. Who else could get away with lines like “Crunch of the gravel driveway / Dash by the grand facade / Just for today we’re lords and ladies / Oh what a gay charade / Livinia loves the lintels / Anna the architraves / Ben’s impressed by the buttresses / Thrust up the chapel knave”. The title is brilliant too.
‘Can You Stand Upon One Leg’ reminds me of ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’, and makes me want to dance just as much. ‘Island Life’ was originally written for the musical version of Swallows and Amazons and has that kind of feel to it. Neil, you’re my Dorothy. The album ends brilliantly with ‘I Like’ a love song to everyone. You know what I like? This album. A lot, a lorra lorra lot. Simply glorious. Easily one of the Divine Comedy’s finest releases.