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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

    Yep. Did it while you were posting!
     
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  2. Linky53

    Linky53 Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Yorkshire UK
    Lord Mayors Show

    I haven’t listened to the bonus disk and maybe I should give it a spin. Although I like the album version and think it’s a good closer, the demo and it’s synth backing would have fitted much better In the context of the album. The album version is more traditional TDC whereas the demo fits in with the concept of Office Politics moving to a new musical style, cleaner and more 80’s synth sounding.

    I can’t help but think three or 4 of the songs could have been re cast in the new sound, a few of the more experimental songs dropped and then we would have a much more cohesive album.

    4/5
     
    LivingForever likes this.
  3. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    Thanks for this, I like it quite a lot more than the one on the album as it's not as sickly/syrupy, but still not convinced about the song overall.
    The start of this is part of the backing music Neil used in that 'highest chart position' album chart parody (which was the first thing I'd ever noticed from TDC on Facebook).
     
  4. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    That’s outstanding! Thanks for posting that :D
     
  5. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lund, Sweden
    After the Lord Mayor's Show

    I find myself agreeing with @jon-senior when it comes to almost every single song on this album. Because I too find this a rather lovely exercise. It starts out a bit like a torch song with a wonderful melody and a stately backing track, though when the marching band drums come in it moves away a bit from that ambiance. Neil does some great singing on this one as well.

    The demo is interesting - another one that I'm glad to see included, as opposed to a lot of others that really didn't bring much new to the table - but I definitely prefer the finished version. While the demo fits the "Office Politics" template better, I don't think there's anything inherently bad in some variation either. Anywho, I found this one a bit clunky, where the released version is smooth and beautiful.

    4.4
     
  6. Dalav

    Dalav Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey
    'Opportunity Knox'

    I like it for the most part though I can't defend it convincingly. I think it's a case where it's greater than the sum of its parts. Most interesting is the tension-build by the electric piano and synth in combo when the officers confront Knox. There is a certain 'sinister' mood conveyed there, as @LivingForever put it. The "this isn't blood....it's ink" is delivered to nice effect, and the formality in referring to him as "William Bird" is a nice touch.

    3.9/5
     
  7. Dalav

    Dalav Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey
    After the Lord Mayor's Show

    At first it seemed a bit of an understated and somewhat forgettable under-the-radar track near the close of the album when listener fatigue is setting in. But after buckling up and tuning in I'm impressed by the lovely little piano melody and the layering of the various other instruments, particularly the rising horn line, accordion, and the spark provided by the marching drum. Although I like the lauding of those in nobler but less recognized pursuits, I'm not sure the song is works as the best conveyance of that. Part of that may be the somewhat awkward title that I stumble over. Perhaps it's as simple as "Lord Mayor" not being a term present in the U.S.

    @drykid mentioned cheap sounding synths. They might be (I'm really not qualified to say) but I like them just the same here. The one that I'm thinking of, which is also present and more prominent right at the beginning of the alternate version, reminds me of the type of sound that pops up at various points in Athlete's catalog. The alternate version of Lord Mayor is very good, and I support @The Booklover's reasoning for replacing the album version with it. But the production in the album version is better, and I also wouldn't want to lose some of the best bits it has. So, I'll call it even, and will give both a...

    4.1/5
     
  8. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    [QUOTE="christian42, post: 28285773, member:
    I find myself agreeing with @jon-senior when it comes to almost every single song on this album.
    [/QUOTE]

    Quite right too. I don't know what's wrong with everyone else. :D
     
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  9. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    I should perhaps elaborate on my original comment and stress that what I dislike is the way the piano *sounds* on this. I'm not necessarily saying he's using cheap equipment; the keyboards he uses live are perfectly capable of sounding great and there's no reason therefore that the same shouldn't apply to however he's doing it in the studio. But I really love the piano sound on records like The Summerhouse and The Booklovers and he doesn't seem to go for that anymore. I wonder if it's more about the mixing than the quality of the sound; maybe he doesn't like it as such a dominant instrument anymore. It could also be down to the notes he's playing, that kind of straight four-to-the-bar chord accompaniment was something he seemed to be fond of but rarely uses these days.

    Have heard the alternate version since I commented before; it's interesting and as I've said before these versions are always worth hearing when they show a significant difference in direction to the finished version. I think in this case though I prefer the final approach though I'm not in love with either.
     
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  10. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    After the Lord Mayor's Show

    Nice easy-listening song in which, despite the English subject matter, I detect a slight American country favour. I can imagine Scott Walker singing it on one of his lighter albums.
    The cheap casio reggae version on the box set is ridiculous.

    Not for the first time has a TDC album finished with more than one competing "closing" number (cf. Casanova). If it had been me I think I might have flipped round the last two songs, so this song would have served as a sort of encore.

    4/5
     
  11. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Belated thoughts on "Knox"- it holds its place in the album, and I do appreciate the speeding up (in this current age not enough songs change tempo IMHO). It does sound Divine Comedy by numbers though. The comparison to "Overstrand", which hadn't occurred to me before, does it no favours, as that song has a much better tune.

    I agree that the storyline being picked up from the title track gives a misleading impression that the album is more of a story than it actually is- I think we already discussed this a fair bit.

    The show it's named after goes back to the 1940s on the radio, and the 1950s in TV. Opportunity Knocks (British TV series) - Wikipedia
    Puns based on characters' names always feel lame as the writer can call the character anything s/he likes. See also "The Brittas Empire" among countless other TV examples.
     
  12. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    I agree with you and it is nice to hear that, as well as the crescendo towards the end (as any variation in dynamics is missing from most pop music).
    We don't have many 'Lord Mayors' in the UK really, and the term means very little to me either.
    I have pretty much no idea what the Lord Mayor's show entails, other than there may have been one in London last week, I think...?
    Only the City of London actually has a Lord Mayor, I think, and it is probably a legacy thing that had no actual political role, otherwise we generally just have a regular 'mayor' in most places, and no show... :shake:;)
    (Edit: 'City of London' being the confusing term for the roughly square mile financial district with a population of about 8,000 people, rather than London as a whole!)

    Edit 2: the Lord Mayor's Show has its own website - how truly fascinating. Now I can find out what it is and even watch it on iPlayer :p:goodie:
    Lord Mayor's Show
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2021
  13. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    After the Lord Mayor’s Show

    I have to say that listening to these songs from the second half of the album one at a time is doing them great favours. All in one go, it’s quite a lot of sombre-ness to deal with, but one at a time you can judge them on their own merits - which I’m going to try to do whilst listening in real time.

    I like the fact that Neil’s vocal is quite understated- it would be easy to turn such a big tune into a croon-fest, but he certainly starts small and restrained and never really gets into top gear, which somehow fits the lyrics - he’s the one who’s quietly getting on with his business while others burn brighter but for a shorter time. (Actually, the backing vocals provide a bit more pizzazz, by way of contrast!)

    The marching band drums seem quite clever at first; taking us from the first mention of a donkey-cart to the actual marching band lyric, but by the time they’ve continued on for the whole song I do get quite tired of them.

    And while I really like the arrangement with the brass and accordion so on, it sort of comes to an abrupt end as it all falls away and leaves it feeling a bit unfinished.

    I think a 3.5 on balance.
     
  14. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Right, everyone. Are you ready for this?

    Today we will be discussing the last track on the last Divine Comedy album to date. There are more bonus tracks and so on to talk about over the next few days, but people traditionally drop off after the main albums are done, so this may be the last time we’re all together for a while! *sob*
     
  15. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Today’s song is:

    When the Working Day is Done

    Here’s Neil in 2019:

    “When the Working Day Is Done”
    “This couldn’t go anywhere else but the end. It's probably one of the most complicated chord progressions that I've ever come up with, and yet it really kind of works. I really feel that the average working person is to be hero-worshipped a hell of a lot more than people like me. I am fortunate, I realize that. But it's more that I'm just appalled with how rubbished working people are. Everything's about aspiration and not just really applauding people for getting through life, at all. And that's where all this comes from.”

     
  16. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    A quick reminder that this song has its origins in a “Bang”-era demo/ bonus track:

     
  17. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    And here’s a live version from London just for the sake of enjoying Neil’s trousers :D

     
  18. Hazey John II

    Hazey John II The lyrics are fine, there's no problem there

    Been thinking about this; I agree there's no need for a story to be laid out linearly, but I do think some cumulative development of theme or mood is usually needed. And Office Politics doesn't quite get it right for me, in the way the earlier DC theme albums do. There's a lot of swapping back and forth between related ideas, but not much growth on the way. It feels harsh to judge an album on these grounds, but I think it holds true of other great double albums too - I prefer the White Album and Exile On Main Street to, say, Physical Graffiti and Songs in the Key of Life, partly because they feel like developing wholes, not just lots of songs strung together. By the end, we've travelled somewhere else.

    I can sort of see how these last three songs make an ending; Knox gets his comeuppance, and then we get two songs about the humble worker, the anti-Knox. But they don't land for me as they are. It's partly having all the orchestral/accordion songs stuffed at the end, which don't hold my attention after the fireworks of the earlier songs. But I think it's more the rehashed content rather than the arrangements.

    'Opportunity' Knox is a lot of plot, but no new growth; Knox (or the Knox-like string of characters) has been a cartoon villain throughout and doesn't become any more three-dimensional here. (Re @Vagabone's "Puns based on characters' names always feel lame as the writer can call the character anything s/he likes." - at least we have a double pun here, Fort Knox as a symbol of wealth - but that still doesn't add up to much for me).

    And When The Working Day Is Done is a drab, pessimistic conclusion, with an arrangement that plods but never soars. Now, arguably that's the intention, as a picture of the person on the train, and perhaps Neil wants to leave us angry and dissatisfied, as a spur to action. But it isn't as successful as, say, the similarly downbeat The Dogs and The Horses. Maybe because that's a much more bravura display of songwriting and arrangement; but I think also because it adds to the theme, it draws together the ideas of Casanova. When The Working Day Is Done just restates.

    But After The Lord Mayor's Show does make some progress, and is comfortably the best of the three. Like I'm A Stranger Here, the old-fashioned metaphor seems a bit odd in the context of the album, and Neil's personal angle spoils things a bit - "two-fingers to people who had No. 1 hits at the same time as I was starting. Where are they now?", moaning about the glory boys who girls scream at - not the most gracious way of expressing solidarity with street cleaners (where are Take That now, indeed?).

    I do get what he means though - there is a dignity to quietly getting on and doing the work, and I do like the linking of the Lord Mayor's Show to the "idiot CEOs of banks" - that ties the album together, though I wish it was more developed in the final lyric (it didn't occur to me until I read Neil's comment). It makes this a companion piece to Norman and Norma, giving us a way to deal with the spectres and ghouls of the rest of the album. So for that reason, and as several of us have said, I'd prefer it as the album closer.

    'Opportunity' Knox 2.5/5
    After The Lord Mayor's Show 4/5
    When The Working Day Is Done 2.5/5

    (I know we've got bonus tracks and other bits and pieces to finish off, but I love the coincidence that we're finished with this the day before Neil releases a new song.)
     
  19. DaniMoonstar

    DaniMoonstar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Staffordshire
    After the Lord Mayor’s show
    I appreciate the double meaning here that Neil alludes to in the notes cited by @LivingForever. It seems to me that there’s a recurring theme here about fears of obsolescence on the album, and presumably a source of anxiety for the pop singer facing his half century. Is this going to keep going for me?

    But I do like the initial surface meaning about individuals continuing with essential mundane tasks, which they do for little remuneration or acclaim and which is a long way from the front of the O2 arena or wherever.

    I very much like the wistful tune, especially the insertion of brass, which brings to mind northern experiences, like those in ‘Brassed off,’ a realisation of the end of an industry for a whole generation of workers, away from London’s streets of gold. The net result is a track that is simultaneously gorgeous and mournful, something not easy to pull off. One of my favourites from the album.

    4.5/5
     
  20. DaniMoonstar

    DaniMoonstar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Staffordshire
    Ha, that’s awesome. Really funny. Thanks for sharing, @The Turning Year
     
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  21. a paul

    a paul Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    Working Day
    I definitely prefer this song in comparison to Mayor, and I agree with Neil about this being the final track. I really like the chorus of monks and the music. Maybe it misses having a super perfect crescendo, but possibly that could have gone wrong, so I'm happy with what it is.

    I don't know what my ratings have been like, but I easily prefer this album to Foreverland and that album with Neil in a bath, whose title I can't quite remember right now. I think it gives me a little bit more hope for future albums. Fingers crossed!
     
  22. DaniMoonstar

    DaniMoonstar Forum Resident

    Location:
    Staffordshire
    When the working day is done
    I noticed some don’t like the one-two punch of having this and ‘Lord Mayor’ back to back. I really like the sequencing. Both tracks echo themes explored and developed elsewhere and I think add something a little differently.

    I love the opening factory whistle, which feels antiquated, as if from a Pathe news item, but sets a certain tone. Even if we are now post-industrial in the UK, that sense of being in thrall to the rat race remains a reality for many, if not most. I love the insistent march and Soviet choir, both of which put me in mind of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis,’ particularly the choreographed scenes of the workers solemnly exiting their shifts en masse.

    More weirdly, and this will be just me, I suspect, but it also reminds me of ‘Chigley,’ where each episode ended with the workers finishing their working days in oddly automated fashion and heading for a dance. Something echoed in the recent ‘Twin Peaks’ series, where episodes often ended with characters finishing their days in a bar listening to a band (and whilst discussions on ‘Twin Peaks’ are endless, I’ll bet ‘Chigley’ is not mentioned much in dispatches). Hey, we’re near the end of our mammoth task, so why not have a little fun?

    Anyway, to properly return to the track, I do love the compelling build of strings towards the end (that’s a trope I won’t tire of) and how the choir becomes increasingly hopeful and heavenly (is this another ambivalent ending?). One for the proletariat, perhaps.

    4.5/5
     
  23. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    I like that idea.

    When The Working Day Is Done
    Can't quite believe we've reached the end... sniff.
    That's very true, and he puts it very well. In society it does feel as though if you're not 'progressing' and getting to the top then you're not worth noticing.
    In recent years I've come to realise that
    a) the people I admire most are those who have kept quietly going rather than those who have shoved their way to the top (I mean family members, friends and colleagues, and people in public life who have stuck to their principles and quietly got on with it); and
    b) personally I like my middle-rung professional job and have no desire to go higher, despite having felt pressure to do so before starting a family.
    So well done Neil for recognising the majority who are stuck somewhere in the middle.

    As for the song itself, I'm afraid I wrote thia earlier and am going to go on a bit again. But it is the final song, so why not!:p:D

    Initially this passed me by as we'd already had the 'slow closing song' and my attention had slipped after a longer than usual record. It also features marching drums which we've just had.
    As others have already mentioned, the second half of the album doesn't really hold my attention; I'm just waiting for it to be over after Philip and Steve! But listening to this song in isolation I do really like it.
    It is classic DC, but it's the kind of classic DC that I enjoy: Neil's signature marching crotchet/quaver piano line (originally pinched from Nyman but now very much his own thing), melancholy strings, that low electric guitar sound (reminds me of the guitar in Someone), a long instrumental section (the only on on this album), and a really lovely, rich-sounding vocal, lots of Neil 'aahs', and even some dynamics as it builds to a glorious crescendo and comes back down again to the ending.

    From the factory whistle (yeah, Neil loves a sound effect!) to the final notes I find it really evocative. It feels sort of hopeful and hopeless at the same time; a rallying cry to the workers facing the daily grind to rise up, little souls! Neil's manifesto seems to still be going strong, and I applaud that.

    This feels to me like a kind of bookend to Commuter Love, and not just that it's the end of the day rather than the morning, but also that Commuter Love seems to be a young man, inclined towards the literary and romantic, getting through the daily grind by imagining himself and this woman as prince and princess, and then it's all brought back down to earth by the station announcement.
    The protagonist of this song no longer has the energy to dream on his commute but instead reading someone else's paper ('...the others, with their papers, and their headphones on'). And it's the Financial Times of all things - how very hard-headed and unromantic. But he hasn't quite given up...

    The romance of commuting that Neil conjures up through this and Commuter Love now benefits from the extra glow of nostalgia as the commute is now from bed to desk via the breakfast table. (Anyone remember getting the train to work every day...?).

    4.5/5
     
  24. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    That suit is so uncool it's pushing the boundaries of being cool... :cool::righton:
     
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  25. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lund, Sweden
    When the Working Day is Done

    I do like this track, but there's something that feels just a bit too repetitive with the melody here. It feels like Neil is just repeating the same melody line over and over again. Luckily, there's the orchestral middle that spices things up a bit. Overall, an all right ending to the album, but I think the previous track would have been a much better closer.

    3.8
     
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