Timewatching: The Divine Comedy Album-by-album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by LivingForever, Nov 5, 2020.

  1. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Okay then, this has been threatened for a while, so it’s about time we got started!

    The intention of this thread is to hold up for discussion the complete works of Neil Hannon, aka The Divine Comedy.

    As with other threads of this nature; we’ll hold up one song a day for discussion and probably score them out of 5.

    What will definitely be covered

    All the studio albums released under the name “The Divine Comedy”:

    Fanfare for the Comic Muse
    A Short Album About Love
    Fin de Siècle
    Absent Friends
    Victory for the Comic Muse
    Bang Goes the Knighthood
    Office Politics

    What will probably be covered

    Other full studio-produced tracks found on B-sides, EPs and deluxe editions.

    What might be covered

    - Some of the more interesting demos and live tracks found on B-sides, the “Secret History” compilation, and the 2020 deluxe editions of the albums and the “Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time” boxset.

    - The two albums by the Duckworth Lewis Method

    - Some of the more interesting collaborations between Neil under his own name, and other artists

    What probably won’t be covered

    - Most of the stuff from “Juveneilia” disc 1 because I don’t think I can bear to listen to it again :D

    - Live albums will probably be covered one per day rather than track by track

    - same may apply to the remainder of the bonus discs like those from the recent boxset, and the “In May” and “Swallows and Amazons” bonuses from the last two studio albums. But let’s see when we get there.

    So let’s take a day to get out of this tailspin, bob our hair, prepare some of our favourite seafood, feed the dogs and the horses, tell someone we love them, take the National Express to Northern Ireland, check lost property for any stray songs, drink a toast to absent friends, pray we don’t die virgins, see what’s going on down in the street below, ask how Neil can leave us on our own, and finally work out what on Earth we’ll do when the working day of this thread is done...

    ... And then we’ll kick off sometime tomorrow with “Fanfare for the Comic Muse”, the first official release under the name of The Divine Comedy.
  2. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Dallas, TX
    Thanks LivingForever for taking this on, and for so clearly explaining how it's going to work! This has the potential to go on for a while, doesn't it? I'm excited!
    Fred1, Disco Robot and LivingForever like this.
  3. happysunshine

    happysunshine Tillverkningen av Salubrin startades 1893

    Excellent, what a thread start! My contribution here might not amount to more than "Yes, I like this song. 5/5!" and "This isn't a fave of mine, cool guitar tho. 2/5." but hopefully I'll add something a little more worthwhile...

    By the way, just to make sure I understand the scores: would this be a fairly accurate approximation of what the scores represent?

    (0: Marmite)
    1: bad
    2: fair/so-so
    3: good
    4: very good
    5: masterpiece/Weetabix

    LivingForever likes this.
  4. Giant Hogweed

    Giant Hogweed Forum Resident

    Exeter, Devon, UK
    Nice work, I shall read with interest
    LivingForever likes this.
  5. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    It surely does! Perhaps I can make it last the whole of the remaining pandemic... ;)
    Disco Robot and ericthegardener like this.
  6. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    I mean, that all depends on what you think of Marmite and Weetabix respectively, I guess :D But yes, I'd say that's fair!

    I think we will use the rating system for every track on every album, plus every "proper" B-side (i.e every track that's not just a different version of something already released). Those will be the tracks which I will hold up for discussion and voting. Then along the way I think it will be interesting to post whatever interesting demos and live tracks are available on Youtube, as they come up in discussion - but I don't intend to hold each of them up for voting otherwise this thread will never end!
    happysunshine likes this.
  7. coffeetime

    coffeetime Senior Member

    Lancs, UK
    Will have to get Fanfare listened to again - prior to the box set, I’ve heard it precisely once. For a long time the proverbial Holy Grail, teased by a ‘this doesn’t sound so bad’ Bleak Landscape on Secret History rarities. When I finally got to hear the full album, it was ‘eh,,,erm...’

    Otherwise I’m in for this!
    LivingForever likes this.
  8. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

  9. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    While we wait to get started, here are some useful resources which may be referred to at various points on this journey!

    The Divine Comedy Official Site - Divine Comedy (en-GB) - the band's official site (sadly now without its dearly departed forum)

    The Divine Comedy (band) - Wikipedia - the Wikipedia page

    a short site about The Divine Comedy - the premier fansite about TDC on the internet, with frankly far more more info about everything TDC than anywhere else you can imagine!

    The Divine Comedy Official Online Store : Merch, Music, Downloads & Clothing - tracklist for the giant "Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time" boxset

    Gigging Forever: What's missing from the Divine Comedy's new boxset? (Extra tracks for "Venus, Cupid, Folly & Time") - shameless plug for my blog detailing all the officially released tracks which are NOT included in the boxset
    Disco Robot and ericthegardener like this.
  10. James Cunningham

    James Cunningham Forum Resident

    Edinburgh, UK
    Cracking opening post Living Forever...
    LivingForever likes this.
  11. Neonbeam

    Neonbeam All Art Was Once Contemporary

    Planet Earth
    Oh wow, that's ambitious! But great that you are doing this! Since I only know three of their albums - two of them being the last two :hide: - I will be a silent observer! :cheers:
    LivingForever likes this.
  12. kbmh

    kbmh Forum Resident

    San Francisco, CA
    one quick aside about Fanfare - (file under first impressions) it, at times, sounds a lot like early Toad The Wet Sprocket, as well as the ever-mentioned R.E.M. And isn't too terrible at all for a first try.

    Now I need to start putting on my Qualify/Quantify brain...
    LivingForever likes this.
  13. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Lund, Sweden
    Excellent! Except for the fact that I didn't want to begin listening to the box set yet, but now you might have forced me to. :(
    LivingForever likes this.
  14. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

  15. Linky53

    Linky53 Forum Resident

    North Yorkshire UK
    Well done for taking this on. I’m all strapped in and ready for the ride. Will have to miss the first stop as I still haven’t heard Fanfare. I think Neil’s dismissed it that many times that I have never had the inclination to seek it out despite DC being one of my favourite bands.
    LivingForever likes this.
  16. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Well, you’re in luck - assuming I can find them, there’ll be a YouTube video for each song we discuss, so you can play along even if you’ve never heard something before!
    ericthegardener likes this.
  17. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Dallas, TX
    Ya know, that's not a bad comparison. It does kind of sound like them. Not a band I care for, but one I heard a fair bit once upon a time.

    I feel like I'll have to rate the Fanfare songs on a different scale that the rest of the catalog, or at least grade the songs on a curve. I'll be looking for positives and signs of later genius, but I'm not expecting to enjoy it in the same way that I enjoy the real stuff.
    LivingForever likes this.
  18. kbmh

    kbmh Forum Resident

    San Francisco, CA
    Yep. I will probably be a little more forgiving with the first one. There are some future ghosts in this first album that are fun to dig out. To use an ELO analogy, Neil isn't lucky enough to have an "Idle Race" to pin on Fanfare... and I really love "The Birthday Party" - but it isn't proper ELO.
  19. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Dallas, TX
    Ha! I love both Idle Race and The Move. Not a huge ELO fan after the first album though. A song here and there to be sure, but not much. (And don't get me started on Jeff Lynne as a producer! ;) )
    happysunshine likes this.
  20. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Thanks for hosting this. I'm really looking forward to it.

    I'd suggest including the October songs, though. The four unreleased songs ending disc 1 were a major surprise with "Roselyn" sounding like a Soft Cell ballad (with Marc Almond vocal style) and the other three being pure post punk, owing a lot to Magazine with Neil even sounding a lot like Howard Devoto and that booming bass notes à la Barry Adamson. The lengthy "Stream Of Unconsciousness" even has a similar mix of post punk and prog that some Magazine tracks have. These October songs even point to the latest Divine Comedy album: "Psychological Evaluation" mentions Soft Cell and also features Magazine's bass style.
  21. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Yeah; that’s a good point. I probably won’t hold them up for voting like the rest of the songs, but they’re worth a mention for sure.

    The booklet with “Juveneilia” confused me a bit about what those last 4 tracks were - my understanding was that they were the 4 tracks on the first demo tape under the name “The Divine Comedy” that found its way to Setanta.

    But the notes don’t make it 100% clear, to be honest.
    happysunshine likes this.
  22. happysunshine

    happysunshine Tillverkningen av Salubrin startades 1893

    I believe those songs are from the October ”Exposition” demo tape:


    A pity we didn’t get the entire tape on the box set!
  23. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Ahhh! Ok, thank you for that. I’ll try to make sense of the available information about the early demo tapes at some point, and then maybe when we’re done with “Fanfare” we can make a brief diversion into everything we know about “pre-Fanfare”.
    happysunshine likes this.
  24. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    So, then, let’s begin with “Fanfare for the Comic Muse”, the first album to be released by a record label under the name “The Divine Comedy”.

    A brief introduction to the album from Wikipedia before I post the first song for discussion:

    Fanfare for the Comic Muse

    1990 studio album by The Divine Comedy

    Fanfare for the Comic Muse is the debut album by the Divine Comedy. Recording took place at Homestead Studios in May 1990 with producer Sean O Neill. Lorcan Mac Loughlann engineered the sessions, and Mudd Wallace mixed the recordings.

    Released July 1990
    Recorded May 1990
    Genre Jangle pop, alternative rock
    Length 26:34
    Label Setanta
    Producer Sean O Neill

    It has since been disowned by the band's lead singer/songwriter Neil Hannon due to its stylistic difference from the band's later works, heading towards a more R.E.M.-styled jangle pop direction than their more distinctive orchestral pop output. "The Rise and Fall" was later re-recorded for the Timewatch EP (1991).

    Track listing
    All songs written by Neil Hannon.

    1. "Ignorance Is Bliss" – 3:42
    2. "Indian Rain" – 3:24
    3. "Bleak Landscape" – 3:40
    4. "Tailspin" – 2:44
    5. "The Rise and Fall" – 4:21
    6. "Logic vs Emotion" – 4:34
    7. "Secret Garden" – 4:09
    Personnel per booklet.

    The Divine Comedy

    • Neil Hannon – vocals, guitar
    • John McCullagh – bass, backing vocals
    • Kevin Traynor – drums, percussion


    • Sean O Neill – producer
    • Lorcan Mac Loughlann – engineer
    • Mudd Wallace – mixing
  25. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Alright then, our first song for discussion today is...

    Ignorance is Bliss

    The first track from the first album released under the name “The Divine Comedy.”

    Have a listen to remind yourself (or perhaps this is your first time!) , then let us know below what you think about the song and give us a score out of 5.

    As well as this YouTube link, the song is available on the CD/LP of the album itself, if you’re lucky enough to own a copy, and is the first proper track on disc 2 of the “Juveneilia” compilation in the new boxset.

    I will return later to give my own thoughts and a score, but I’ll let some others of you post yours first!

    When we get to the end of the album, I’ll hold up the full album for discussion as a whole, but don’t let me stop you offering your thoughts on it in the meantime.

    Off we go!
    Radiophonic_ and happysunshine like this.

Share This Page