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Timewatching: The Divine Comedy Album-by-album thread

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

  1. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    ‘Opportunity’ Knox

    I quite like this. The subject matter is grim, but in contrast to most of the other songs in the second half of the album, it's easier to swallow via the satirical treatment. Although it has elements of French resistance tango, it doesn't turn into a dirge thanks to the more aggressive delivery and the faster pace near the end. A short burst of energy before the drudgery conveyed by the final tracks.

    Also, I love it when artists have callbacks to characters they created for previous songs (see Bowie's Major Tom returning in "Ashes To Ashes"). The telling name 'Opportunity' Knox reminds me of Blur's anti-heroes such as Colin Zeal or Ernold Same, which is a welcome association.

    4

    They did on occasion. It's included in the otherwise shortened setlist (because Neil unfortunately had a cold) of the Cologne show that was broadcast by WDR's Rockpalast.
     
  2. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Ahh ok thanks, I have watched that gig actually but not recently enough to remember the specifics :)
     
  3. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Hmmm on one hand I'm incredibly impressed that someone can actually manage that. It would make my head explode to attempt listening to a piece of music while simultaneously trying to play the same thing over the top of it but at an intentionally faster / lower speed. Having said that, impressive it is it inevitably lacks the preciseness you'd get from doing it in a more conventional way. I can't say for certain this isn't what they were doing live, but it makes no sense to me to attempt it this way when the way I described it originally is both much simpler and would produce results much closer to the record.

    Anyway I guess we'll never know exactly how they were doing it.
     
    The Turning Year likes this.
  4. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    I’ll add it to the list of mysteries from this thread that I will absolutely ask Neil when I really, definitely get the chance to interview him :D

    Having said that, I honestly don’t think it’s that mysterious - you can hear that Neil starts by clapping a few bars, which then carries on through the whole opening bit. Then every 2/3(?) bars, he adds something else, starting with one vocal line (of the tune), then a second one (which is slightly out of time), then more and more vocal lines (again slightly out of time?) and then finally harmonies until there’s a massive chorus of Neils.

    I’ve never used one myself but I’ve seen several acts use loop pedals live, and this is exactly how they do it, they start with one thing which repeats every few bars, and then build up loads of things on top of each other. (Heck, I saw two guys play the entire of “Tubular Bells” on a stage full of instruments in exactly this way!)

    You can’t see Neil’s feet at the start of the song, but the dead giveaway is that he ends the chorus of Neils by walking back over to his mic stand and pressing something with his foot. Has to be a loop pedal?

    Edit - ARGH, just watched it on that French TV thing and it doesn’t look like Neil’s lips move for the first vocal line. Now I’m very confused… the first line is on tape? Or it’s just bad editing from the TV people cutting together the multiple different takes?
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2021
  5. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Aaaanyway, sorry, enough about a live version of a song from 2 days ago… ;)

    “Opportunity” Knox

    I have to say on first listening to “Office Politics” I was absolutely dismayed. Not at the weird experiments but on how many “French sounding songs”* there were in the latter part of the album.

    (* you know how I feel about these “French Resistance Tango” / Weimar Cabaret - sounding things)

    On my initial listen, “I’m a Stranger Here” was one of those, and then “Dark Days are Here Again” too, albeit with some loud bits to try to fool me- and then this song was the the third in relatively quick succession.

    I no longer feel the same about “Stranger”, but this one still sits somewhere between the Threepenny Opera and Les Mis, for me. (And I also don’t get any comparison to “Overstrand” other than that both start with Neil and the piano - albeit this time an electric one?)

    Having said that, I like the tune, I like the instrumentation almost despite myself (that woodblock “knocking” along with the chorus is quite clever), and I like the way the music shifts down into a more sinister gear as the character goes from obsequious fool to murderer.

    The story is fun too, it’s a self contained tale really, but with a couple of back references really makes you think there’s been an overarching narrative for this album that you’ve maybe missed while you were listening.

    I’m honestly not sold on the sort of Russian Cossack dance ending as it speeds up further and further, though.

    3.8
     
  6. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Today’s song is:

    After the Lord Mayor’s Show

    2019 Neil:

    “After the Lord Mayor's Show”
    “I was thinking of a street cleaner here—it's a song for them. I don't want to be patronizing, I just think these professions are incredibly noble and should be paid twice as much as the idiot CEOs of banks, because they definitely do a better job and enhance society a lot more. But then, as usual, I myself creep into the lyric, and it's a little bit of a two-fingers to people who had No. 1 hits at the same time as I was starting. Where are they now? I always valued longevity over being the flavor of the month. And I think it has a lot of resonance with the long-term career idea. And just if you're going to do something, do it well, and it doesn't matter if it makes you a million overnight.”


     
  7. a paul

    a paul Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    Opportunity
    I think I enjoy this one more because of what it's become in my house. I now often sing Opportunities, Opportunities multiple times to irritate my partner, which is endless fun. And for that alone I'll give it a 4.
     
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  8. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Yes I know how a loop pedal works (and if they repeat *that* K.TTunstall clip on Later one more time I'll probably write a letter of complaint to the BBC about it), but I'm pretty sure that when you saw it done live everything was played at the same tempo. I can't imagine what Tubular Bells would sound like if every instrument had a different BPM, but it wouldn't be pleasant.
     
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  9. a paul

    a paul Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    Lord Mayor
    Not sure about this one. Maybe I just don't like the earnest singing, with Neil mentioning a Lord Mayor's Show, which doesn't interest me as a topic, even if it's singing about the after part. It's nice enough though, and not one I'd ever really skip past at least.
    3/5
     
    The Turning Year likes this.
  10. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    I think somebody else said they didn't see the connection, and there isn't really much of one.
    I just felt the motivations of the protagonists are similar, and they're both slightly music hall-leaning darkly comic songs (although how funny they are is up for debate..!).
     
  11. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    After the Lord Mayor's Show
    I think that, between this and the next song, only one was really needed, and it wasn't this one. I find it a bit insipid musically, and lyrically the impression I got is of a rather thinly-veiled whinge about pop music a la Heart of Rock and Roll. Reading that it is sticking up two fingers to other pop stars who have not had long careers makes me like it less.
    I look forward to reading what others have to say as I feel a number of people here might rate this one highly. I may well come to revise my score by the end of the day...
    (I have just upped my score by 0.2 after reading that it was originally intended aa an ode to the people who so all the important jobs we don't notice. That's a lovely thought, even if that doesn't really come across to me in the finished song).
    2.2/5
     
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  12. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    After the Lord Mayor's Show - this is one of the best songs on the album for me, and it's interesting to hear it isolated from the album. Usually by this point I'm a bit fed up and wondering how much more there's left to go, but in isolation I can appreciate it better. It was always fairly clear to me that the meaning of the song was basically as described by Neil in his comments above. It seems to me you could write a fairly patronising song about this kind of thing (The Stones' "Salt of the Earth" springs to mind, although I have a soft spot for it regardless) but Neil manages to get the tone just right. It's about pride in yourself and what you do as much as anything, to me anyway. I'm not that taken with the musical arrangement, there's some rather cheap-sounding keyboards and I feel like it could build a bit more towards the end than it actually does. So I'd probably knock off a 0.5 for that but it's still 4 /5 for me.
     
  13. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    I think the Overstrand link is more thematic - a first person song from the perspective of someone with a broken moral compass trying to rise to the top of whatever situation they're in. That's what I meant by it anyway.

    EDIT - once again, @The Turning Year has made the same point before me, and I really ought to read all the unread messages on the thread before I start chiming in again!
     
  14. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    After The Lord Mayor's Show

    Interesting to read Neil's notes here - are they the ones from the boxset? If so, I must have read them before, but I don't remember them. Interesting though, because although I can see the link to the 'Neil's career as a theme' idea, I interpreted it differently. To me, it feels like a wistful look back at the Casanove / Fin de Siecle era when he could appear on Top of the Pops and find himself in the charts, tempered by a realisation that he's built a solid career that matters (to people like us, at least) away from that level of limelight. I find that contrast of emotion very effective - there's a melancholy to this track, but it isn't depressing - it doesn't have the darkness of the track that follows, though I can see why some would find the two songs together a bit off-putting (I'll say again - putting Norman and Norma - or anything a bit more upbeat, I suppose - in between the two makes a huge difference).

    I think the arrangement to this one is particularly lovely. The opening section with Neil and the piano on their own is very delicate, but the part where the other instruments fade up for the start of verse two gives it some wonderful texture. The backing vocals are a little incongruous, but they give the song a distinctive element, and this song has the best use of accordion on the album, for my money. I'm also very taken with the section that sounds like a key change - in fact, it is a key change, but only a brief one before it falls back down to where it started for the final verse. I'm sure there's a technical musical term for that which I don't know, but the feeling of stepping up only to drop back down again stirs some undefinable emotions when I listen to it - again, melancholy but not depressing.

    All in all, I'd say it's a very fine song - easy to overlook where it is, but a bit of a highlight for me.

    4/5
     
  15. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    No, all the notes tagged “2019 Neil” are from the track-by-track rundown he did for Apple Music when the album was released. You can still see them all if you visit the Apple Music page for the album on a browser.
     
  16. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    You said it better though!

    And I'm already starting to rethink After the Lord Mayor's Show in the light of your comments and others...
     
  17. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Tonicization?
     
  18. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    Ah, yes. In that case, I probably haven't read them before now. Thanks.
     
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  19. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    Maybe - I had to look that up, and I have only the haziest understanding of the theory behind it, but I think that's what I'm getting at!
     
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  20. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    I had to google it myself, my first thought was "modulation" but apparently that really refers to a more conventional key change. I take tonicization to mean a temporary relocation of the tonal centre that then resolves back to where it started. Funnily enough I was trying to play the sheet music of The Carpenters' cover of "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" earlier and there's something there that I would see as tonicization. Both verse and chorus are in Ab major but there's a strange bar in-between where it manages to stick in an E chord (which really doesn't belong in Ab major at all.)
     
  21. TheLemmingFace

    TheLemmingFace Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    After The Lord Mayor’s Show
    For my money this is a gorgeous song - I personally think it should be the last track; it’s no Sunrise, of course, but it’s as close to Sunrise as this album gets. It’s a lovely melody, the gospellish vocals really work here and, while I can’t say I’d ever heard the titular expression before (though apparently it is one of some antiquity), it feels like a very apt way of summarising what Neil’s talking about. I don’t think his personal subtext (re singers with hits but no staying power) intrudes on the more general - and important - meaning re the extreme importance of oft-unsung roles in society.

    There’s an Alternate Version with a bit more of an Office Politics feeling, whereas the final version is a little more traditional TDC… which is all good as far as I’m concerned! If this is from the original batch of songs, do we think it was ever considered for Foreverland? It would have fitted the ‘after the happily ever after’ storyline, and framing it in a romantic album would have made it seem to be about the post-honeymoon phase of relationships.

    Anyway, the more I hear this song the more I like it; it’s probably my favourite melody on this album and I agree that it is a heartfelt, not patronising, tribute to the people who make civilisation work from within. So I’ll stretch a tiny bit and give it a generous 5/5.
     
  22. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    That's an interesting thought - I think it would have worked well there.
     
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  23. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Oops! I’m getting bad at remembering what’s on the last disc of this boxset!

    Here is that version…

     
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  24. Linky53

    Linky53 Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Yorkshire UK
    Opportunity Knox

    I like this one. Rolling piano line, the return of Billy Bird but not a happy ending. Musically simple, a touch of the DC familiar french atmosphere and the speeding up at the end works well. The second half of this album is very different from the first. Its maybe an uncomfortable collection and some tracks seem better listening out of the album setting.

    3.7/5
     
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  25. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    After the Lord Mayor’s Show
    I was not familiar with the Lord Mayor's Show and what it entails, so as soon as I read this last year, the song made so much more sense.

    Hm, despite Neil's comment about the personal layer added to the lyric, I think it's too thin to get in the way of the intended main message (if anything, it complements it). So I fully agree with this:

    I agree with you that only one of the last two songs was needed, mainly because the album ends with two dirges in a row (and too many before that). I disagree with you that it wasn't this one, though I struggle a bit with the album version.
    I'm disappointed by yet another traditional TDC backing track on what first seemed to be a really experimental, more electronic album. I was okay with the ones for "You'll Never Work In This Town Again" and "I'm A Stranger Here", because they complement the lyrics about a character feeling out of step with the modern times. Here, it becomes a bit boring. That said, I appreciate the marching drums coming in just as the marching bands are mentioned.

    This is why I find the alternative synth version essential, it injects a little bit of the electronic feel of previous tracks and sets it apart from the sound of the two songs it's surrounded by. I hope @LivingForever will upload it for those who haven't got the box set. Along with the alternative version of "Queuejumper", I think it's the second bonus disc version of an album track that's a marked improvement. It has some nice bass parts (once again reminding me of Magazine) and a bit that sounds similar to Art Of Noise's "Moments In Love" at the two-minute mark. I'm also glad that there are no gospel singers providing backup here. The narrator's on his or her own here, which makes it simultaneously more heartbreaking and more admirable.

    I'll come back to the suggested alternate tracklistings later, but I definitely agree that both songs in their album versions are a bit of a chore to get through. I'm not sure whether I'd split them apart with a more upbeat song with vocals, though, as I feel they compliment each other perfectly in the lyric department. An electronic instrumental interlude to illustrate the final work of the day being done might fit better.

    Musically, I agree with you. Lyrically, "When The Working Day Is Done" is a more fitting ending to the concept, although just having this song as the closer would have been appropriate, too. Maybe Neil just went with two closing numbers as it's a double album. The Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy had even more endings.

    Album version: 3.5
    Superior alternative version: 4.5
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2021

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