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Timewatching: The Divine Comedy Album-by-album thread

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

  1. a paul

    a paul Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    I like Bad Ambassador, but don't love it. Although it does sound quite good by the end.
    I do love the video, but the thought that it (or any video!) coated £150k is staggering. But I suppose if Neil is worth £10 million then it's a drop in the ocean! :D

    3.7
     
  2. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Sorry to anyone who's bored of me and Jon going over these lyrics with a fine-tooth comb, we can take it to private message if you like ... ;)

    This line to me is saying "I know you think I'm this niche indie artist but actually all I really want is to be on a major label, top the charts and headline festivals and so on" - but I agree that the idea of the "big boys" suggests that he really knows that's not his world (yet... but he hopes it will be!)

    I feel like in the context of the song, it's saying "yeah, I could do some more songs about EM Forster novels that might enrich you mentally, but actually I don't feel like it right now..."

    edit - I like your thoughts on the “just something I gotta do / I’ll try to make it up to you” - and that fits, to me. No literary songs right now, I have to get this out of my system first - once again being a bad ambassador for that type of person you thought I was!
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021 at 6:19 AM
    The Turning Year likes this.
  3. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    That's exactly what I always thought. I'd go even so far as to say that this is my least favourite song from the album. I think "Bad Ambassador" is the most overrated track, certainly by Neil himself bafflingly bigging it up as a great rock 'n' roll song and making it the only Regeneration setlist staple. For a successful rock single it's not catchy and uptempo enough, take away the electric guitar and its sluggish pace perfectly fits the rest of the album. It's not bad by any means but a bit mediocre and not living up to the hype generated by Neil himself.

    3/5

    These are the elements that I like best.

    I'm so glad that his original plan didn't come to fruition.

    Good point, but tellingly the over-emotive way he sing the chorus is my least favourite vocal on the entire album. This crooner mode sticks out like a sore thumb.
    On a positive note, I noticed that the falsetto parts on Regeneration are much improved. On "Bad Ambassador" he almost crosses the line leading into the middle eight (and the live version reverts to the ridiculous falsetto of past efforts), but on the rest of the album I found myself thinking that for the first time his falsetto really works.

    I'm afraid I have to disagree. Maybe as per your interpretation of the lyrics, but musically I don't see a connection beyond some louder guitars. I strongly prefer "Thrillseeker" for its better verse and chorus melodies alone.
    Now, I can totally agree with this description.

    Contrary to others who already stated their utter dislike for "Love What You Do" (which I fear is shaping up to be the most underrated song of the album), I think it was the best choice for first single given what was on offer. "Perfect Lovesong" would have been too similar to previous material and regarded as a red herring.
     
  4. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    It would have been quite a different album. I think I said when I reviewed the whole of the Edinburgh 2000 concert that "Bad Ambassador" was the one song which didn't really change by the time of the final album - and that its sort of "soft rock" sound (think Queen rather than Anthrax) permeates many of the other songs in their original versions. It's tantalising to wonder what it would have sounded like in the end without Nigel G, and whether it would sound less different to the main TDC catalogue, but I'm not convinced at all that people would have found it "better".
     
  5. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Leeds, UK
    Don't get me wrong, I think Thrillseeker is much better!
    Maybe the two songs aren't so alike but loud guitars are so rare in Divine Comedydom that the few that do have them automatically get grouped together.
     
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  6. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    I seem to remember @The Booklover commenting previously that we as a group seem not to like it when TDC do "rock" - I meant to say at the time, that I personally do like it and wish it happened more! There are a good few examples on this album, with varying degrees of success.

    I am trying and struggling to think of any song after this album that could really be described as "rock" - this band line-up could certainly do it when called on, but the newer line-up... not so much. (It'll be interesting to hear them tackle this album at the Barbican in 2022...)
     
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  7. lazzaa

    lazzaa Well-Known Member

    Location:
    London
    God I love this song - "Well I'm not the Pope and I don't wanna be, the Archbishop of Canterbury" - great. Its full of good touches, I think the vocal performance is superb, especially the bit that bleeds into the guitar solo - the ascending lines in the chorus mentioned before, interesting guitar line, cool bass line. One of his best.

    I'm glad they still play it live too because its a belter. A full 5/5 for me.
     
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  8. lazzaa

    lazzaa Well-Known Member

    Location:
    London
    Yeah its a tough one - Infernal Machines has got a little of it but otherwise its pretty thin on the ground!
     
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  9. TheLemmingFace

    TheLemmingFace Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    Timestretched:
    There are only two songs on Regeneration that I actually like to any meaningful degree, and this isn't one of them. I like my music playful or powerful, and the affected 'I'm not emoting' vocal style really emphasises that many of these tunes are dirgish. That said, I do like the intricacy and artifice of the arrangements on many songs, this included. 2/5

    Bad Ambassador:
    This was a grower for me: one day I properly heard the 'gonna abseil down my ivory tower and buy myself a jaguar' line and the song clicked in a big way. Hell of a way to write (that line encapsulates both the playful and the powerful, the divine and the comedy). 5/5
     
  10. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Not bored at all. To me your and Neil's interpretation makes most sense, but in the absence of the Flan's treatises, it's always great to read other takes on the lyrics.

    Based on the admittedly not very clear sounding and bass heavy recording of "Timestretched", I'm also inclined to believe it would have turned out worse but still too different from the preceding work to please the majority of TDC fans.
     
    LivingForever likes this.
  11. Zardok

    Zardok Forum Resident

    Location:
    Castle Cary
    Timestretched 3.3

    I never dug this Neil as guitar hero (or Neil as hero of a guitar band) for two main reasons: it is clear by this stage of his career there is no band, just a band of hired musicians carrying out his orders/visions and his artistic persona is too entrenched to undergo a permanent transformation. It's as daft an idea as if David Bowie had joined a band as an equal member twenty years into his solo career. Oh wait.....

    Harmless song, pleasant melody but not really going any places. Marking time for the tone of the bulk of the album.

    Bad Ambassador 3.6

    Jangly guitars, faux punk attitude and the Artist Formerly Known As Divine Comedy drawling us into his new sound. Get's an extra 0.1 for the line "I'm not the Pope and I don't want to be the Archbishop of Canterbury".

    The Thane of Cawdor lives! Why do you dress him in borrow'd robes?
     
  12. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Yes, "Infernal Machines" apes the synth blues rock of "Personal Jesus" (subsequently revisited by Depeche Mode themselves on several more songs).
    Apart from that, "To Die A Virgin" and especially "Napoleon Complex" would have lent themselves to rockier versions.
     
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  13. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Bad Ambassador
    Is this song the key to understanding the whole vexed question of Regeneration and what came after? Perhaps. Would I just like it to be because its neat? Probably. My revelation the other day would certainly point towards that, but is that all just a load of hindsight-driven mumbo? Highly likely.
    Who knows, but I'll do a separate post on that (before I read what anyone else thinks and modify my interpretation!)

    The song itself is fun and funky It's the liveliest on the album, and along with Perfect Lovesong, was one I gravitated towards back in 2001 as feeling a bit more familiar TDC - it has strings!
    Listening now I find it a bit jarring musically, and it really does reach the top, straining end of Neil's vocal range. Unusually, I'm not a fan of the falsetto on this one. My revelation did not help me make sense of the Pope line, unless it relates in some way to Get Me To A Monastery...?
    Still, there's a nice blend/run on from Timestretched into this (i hadn't realised before that most of the songs do this, a bit like Liberation) and I really enjoyed hearing it. I love the way the bass and drums come in at the start. Without it the album as a whole would almost definitely send me to sleep, but oddly I think I enjoyed Timestretched more, so I'll give it:
    3:30/5.00

    The video cost how much?!?! o_O That's surely just excessive spending for no good reason, and would have paid for the recording of Liberation, Promenade and Casanova combined and I'd much rather have any one of those!;):D
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021 at 7:56 AM
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  14. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Surprisingly given all the talk of a drastic change, more than half of the songs on the album actually include strings, an orchestra or (in one case) at least a cello.
     
  15. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Analysis mumbo jumbo ramblings(based on my Bad Ambassador revelation!).

    Edit: having just caught up on what others think, I'm not a million miles from @jon-senior in interpretation, although I've gone a bit more for the Umberto Eco-style conspiracy theory angle...! I recommend a liberal pinch of salt!

    “I got tired of playing roles. The fun ended up confusing everyone, me included. When the Divine Comedy best-of came out, one reviewer wrote that the band would be remembered as a '90s' eccentric curiosity'. I would have screamed in sadness. I never wanted to end up in the weirdos and freaks aisle. We had managed to get noticed, but for the wrong reasons. It was about time to return to music and to her alone. "
    (automatically translated from a French article of 20/03/2001: https://www.ashortsite.com/books/articles.php?keyword=inrocks2001_03_20)

    So he abseiled down his ivory tower, brought in Godrich to stamp out the fun (no congas!), and slipped into yet another role as an 'indie-rock star'.

    Up to this point the music seemed to come straight out of Neil's head and onto the record, and was always very personal to him, even if this wasn't obvious. The negative comments must have felt very personal, and far from being a defence it seems the characters and roles ended up feeling like a trap, so hiding behind the band/producer makes complete sense.

    Whether he really thought this was a path to having his Radiohead cake and eating it (by which I mean being both commercially and artistically validated) isn't clear, but Bad Ambassador can I think, with hindsight, be read as an indication that this was always a temporary diversion.

    To sing this almost-apology for the direction taken and veiled promise to deliver 'more' (whatever that may be) seems very bold, but this meaning possibly only comes out with hindsight. It certainly didn't occur to me at the time!

    Although perhaps Neil meant he had a lot more to give but couldn't for fear of ending up as a relic or self-parody, so had to find another way to exist?

    This second interpretation certainly makes more sense... or does it...?
    It would have been incredibly calculating to have already planned that this album would fail to launch TDC into the stratosphere, thereby providing an excuse for Neil to once again ditch the band and return to the attic/ivory tower...
    Perhaps he was already feeling stifled by the band and wanted a change, but couldn't justify ditching them at the height of their success, so needed to find a reason to 'regenerate'...? Perhaps the regeneration wasn't the album itself but came afterwards...?
    (The split did come pretty soon, and Neil does describe his relief when the original band lineup left and half hearted attempts to convince them otherwise).
    I think he's probably capable of this and is a lot more switched on and calculating than he may appear, all hidden by a mild and slightly hapless exterior.

    Or perhaps Neil was just confused, tired, depressed and feeling battered after reaching a place he'd worhed damn hard to get to and which so very few ever see (I know, poor him!), yet was afraid to stand still and had a million pound record deal burning a hole in his brain (how simply awful!) so decided to jump this way...?!

    On taking reviews to heart: I'm married to a theatre director/ professional magician who makes a living from live performance, so have learned the power of reviews, (especially if things get personal, or the person is a sensitive soul!). He has spent weeks moping... sorry, I mean thinking... about a single crappy press review while virtually ignoring several glowing ones, and has had to be bashed over the head... erm, sorry... talked out of a complete career change!
    So although Neil seems to be whining about his position, and I don't like the 'poor me' attitude in general, I can understand to an extent. (He just perhaps didn't need to plaster it all over the songs...!)
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021 at 8:09 AM
  16. James Cunningham

    James Cunningham Forum Resident

    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Bad Ambassador

    I saw the band 3 times (I think) on the Regeneration tour and this was a set highlight for me.

    A very strong arrangement with great vocals from Neil. I think it is pretty strong lyrically as well, although I must confess that I haven't analysed them to any degree. That being said, I am enjoying reading the interpretations of others on here; and I perhaps appreciate these more than many the The Flan's previous musings.

    5/5
     
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  17. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    I interpreted it as you did.

    Oh I'm sure some of us are trying to make them more profound (pointing at myself...:sigh::winkgrin:)
     
  18. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    Pfft. Everyone knows what they signed up for. :D
     
  19. Radiophonic_

    Radiophonic_ Electrosonic

    Location:
    Royal Oak MI
    "Bad Ambassador": It's fine. Better than a lot of the rest of the record because it has interesting lyrics and an engaged vocal performance. The music is just okay for me; I like the chorus, but the rest is just there. That's about it, it's a not song I think much about or have much interest in otherwise. 2.8/5
     
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  20. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    More recent live versions drop a lot of the falsetto, which is a shame. The chorus loses a lot of its impact when the second half is dropped an octave.
     
  21. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I just found an interesting Irish TV interview with Neil and Rob by Dave Fanning from March 2001 here:



    In it, Neil reveals that he has started using a word processor instead of a notebook to write down his lyrics. However, I'd like to point out that there is a photo of an old manuscript of the lyrics to "Bad Ambassador" from the box set booklet, which should provide new fuel for your lyric dissection.

    Also, Neil stresses that the working method of developing the songs for Regeneration was similar to the one for ASAAL.

    Finally, Dave asks "Do you see yourself going along as what you are now?" and whether Neil's had enough of his foppish, fun Oscar Wilde of the 90s persona. To which Neil replies:
    "Yes, that's definitely gone for good. So those people who are really gonna miss that... you gonna have to get over it."
     
  22. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Leeds, UK
    He does say that with the air of man struggling not to lose his temper, as if he's been asked that question a hundred times already that day.
     
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  23. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Yes, but I saw that more as a reaction to already being asked about the next record when he is out to promote the new one. As Neil puts it, "I think I'd like people to concentrate on this one for the time being."
     
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  24. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I forgot to mention that it includes several lines that didn't make it to the final version.
     
  25. Dalav

    Dalav Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey
    Bad Ambassador

    I'd say I'm most similar to @Radiophonic_ on this this track. True, it's a respite from the homogeneity I complained about, yet.....it doesn't tickle my fancy. Despite some interesting aspects in the music, the nice delivery and clever patter of the lyrics in the verses, I find the chorus grating and fatiguing, detracting from enjoyment. Ultimately the song sits in the verge of skip or no skip depending on the day's mood.

    2.75/5
     

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