Timewatching: The Divine Comedy Album-by-album thread

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

  1. TheLemmingFace

    TheLemmingFace Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    When The Working Day Is Done
    A much better listen than Beside The Railway Tracks, and the illusion of a continually ascending chord progression is the best thing about this. However I want more after the ‘we give and get nothing back!’ bit - the dramatic mellotron/choir is great, but this could have been an Our Mutual Friend moment. It isn’t. 3/5
     
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  2. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Leeds, UK
    When The Working Day Is Done
    I never really noticed how good this song was. A combination of it being last on the record, it being a long record, and my more careless and less respectful way of listening to music nowadays. I think I probably only occasionally made it this far before.
    This is less simple that it appears at first listen. It's verging on being... yet another Divine Comedy classic. I'll hover somewhere near the upper boundary level of 4/5 for this'un.
     
  3. a paul

    a paul Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    Oops. Forgot my rating: 4.7
     
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  4. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I'll miss it, too. Why don't we prolong the discussion a bit after the Office Politics bonus material by talking about the new song as well as our takes on alternate tracklistings for Charmed Life (2 CDs) and A Secret History (1 CD)? And then we could reconvene in February to discuss the album's worth of unreleased tracks that make up the upcoming bonus disc.
     
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  5. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    That's funny, thanks for posting it. Since I don't use Facebook, I have never seen it before.

    When the Working Day is Done
    Thematically, they go well together, but the similar style of the music doesn't do the sequence any favours. That's why I have replaced "After The Lord Mayor's Show" with the alternate synth version and slotted one of the electronic instrumentals between the two songs.

    Another reason why I prefer the synth version of the previous song.

    I also had to think of "Commuter Love" when I listened to the lyrics of this. Unfortunately, the music of the former is more successful in evoking strong emotions in me. That said, in line with your interpretation regarding the differences between the two lyrics, maybe it's fitting that the music of this song has also lost all traces of romance and an energy to dream.

    I very much agree with these quotes. I love the message and like Neil think it's the logical ending to this album, but the music lets it down a bit. Something more adventurous would have left a better impression as the closing statement of what is basically billed as his most experimental album.
    3
     
  6. Linky53

    Linky53 Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Yorkshire UK
    When the Working Day is Done

    I’m guilty of losing interest in this album due to its length and the tracks I struggle with, and probably on most occasions not getting as far as this track. In isolation listening today it’s not a bad track, I like the extended middle section and it’s a fine vocal. Probably suffers in the album context by the sombre nature of the tracks that came before.

    3/5
     
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  7. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    When the Working Day Is Done

    I’m afraid that this is at least the second song on the album that reminds me of “Les Miserables”- apologies Neil, though I don’t actually intend this as a slight because I do think that of all the 1980s musicals, the music of “Les Mis” stands up rather well. But yeah, the music of this track reminds me of “Look Down”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, “One Day More” and various other bits. And even lyrically, the opening number of “Les Mis” (“At the End of the Day”) is all about the drudgery of work and basically just surviving each day.

    But still, that’s not important right now :D

    As the final track on the final (to date) TDC album, I’d like to go out on a really high score, but to be honest as others have said, the melody is a bit repetitive- though the shifting chord pattern and arrangement holds the interest well. Having said that, I really like the pained-sounding “We give and get nothing back!”, but as has already been pointed out, the remainder of the song doesn’t quite live up to that promise. (Plus, that is probably its most Les Mis moment :D)

    3.7
     
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  8. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    When The Working Day Is Done

    Although I can understand what others have said about this track and After The Lord Mayor's Show being too similar as adjacent tracks, I think there's a lot to separate them. Whereas the first track is quite a personal reflection on an individual's circumstances (whether you read that as Neil, or as a working character), this one seems for more broadly observational - the 2nd person narration helps with this, as do the lyrics in general which seem to refer in general terms to, well, everyone that works, I guess.

    I really, really like the structure of this one. The chord sequence is very strong - when I sat down during lockdown one to transcribe the songs on Office Politics as best I could, it was this one that I found most tricky. The ascending chord sequence is good, but the fact that the second verse diverts from the sequence of the first makes the whole song seem quite unsettling - you're never quite sure where it's going (until you've listened to it repeatedly, at least), and I like the contrast there - the predictability of the life depicted against the uncertainty of where the music is taking you. The instrumental part might not soar to the heights of Our Mutual Friend or To The Rescue, but there's still some great stuff going on. The choral part is great (who is that male choir? The faceless workers going about their lives? The Greek chorus watching on? Either idea works), and the guitar line during the second section is a triumph of minimalism. The simple plucked 'follow the melody line' isn't at all showy, but it fits really well here. (Didn't Neil list Blondie as one of the acts that he drew inspiration from for the album? Tonally, the guitar sounds a bit like Atomic here, I think).

    And then, after building up the layers of sound, we get the epilogue - the sequence changes to a set of minor chords, and Neil sings us out. What should we take from the lyrics? It's hard to say. Nothing is resolved here - Neil isn't offering a solution, or a way out - it's an observation without advice. And, in some ways, it's a bit bleak, but life doesn't always have a simple solution. It's a but emotional, though I can't put my finger on why. It also feels like a proper finale, more so than any TDC album closer since Charmed Life, maybe even Sunrise.

    Maybe I'm being over sentimental because it's the last track of the last album on what's been a wonderful journey to be a part of over the last year, but I'm going to push this to 4.5/5. I'm looking forward, of course, to the bonus tracks and the stray odds and ends, and I'm assuming we'll be back in February for Charmed Life disc 3?
     
  9. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Coincidence…? Or meticulously careful planning? Ok, coincidence :D

    You know what I think? I think the new song should be tomorrow’s song. It would be only fitting. And then we’ll all be giving our impressions and scores based on the same amount of familiarity for once!

    (we can do it again properly in February when we discuss all the new material as you suggest!)

    EDIT- ok, it doesn’t premiere until 7pm UK time, so maybe it can be Tuesday’s song.
     
  10. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I'm fine with that, too!
     
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  11. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    When the Working Day is Done - always partial to a bit of 6/4 time, and the extended coda is reminiscent of classic TDC (even though I wouldn't call this song itself a classic, but it's making the right references...) A bit odd to have two songs in a row about the plight of the working man, but then again it wouldn't be much less weird if they were on the same album but further apart. I suppose it's the kind of thing that happens when you have a double album to fill though. If it was a single album then you kind of think that only one of the two would make the cut and the other would get put aside for another time. It's good for the album to go out on a high note though regardless. 3.75 / 5

    (Actually it might have been interesting to hear a single album version of Office Politics consisting only of the best songs, but it's obvious from the ratings here that there would be no consensus as to what to include and what to leave out. I recently bought the re-issued version of ELO's "Secret Messages"; that album was supposed to be a double originally but the record label didn't see it that way so it ended up as a single with the other tracks disposed of as B-sides instead. Anyway the new version restores the original double album line-up and it's an interesting experience. I wouldn't say it's actually better, but it's certainly a lot longer when you're used to it as a single album! But by the same logic a single album Office Politics would be a far different listening experience.)
     
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  12. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Okay then, today’s song will be:

    The Divine Comedy Ltd

    An instrumental and samples-based track which to my ears is more than a tiny bit reminiscent of British band Public Service Broadcasting…

    This was unheard until the 2020 bonus disc of “Office Politics” from the “Venus, Folly and Cupid” boxset.

     
  13. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    And just because I mentioned them, here’s “Theme from PSB” by Public Service Broadcasting, from 2013.

    Musically it’s not that close to Neil’s track, but in title and approach it did make me pause for comparison!

     
  14. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    The Divine Comedy Ltd

    Marvellous stuff. It's pretty simple - a straightforward arrangement of a straightforward chord progression, but the samples over the top are good and it chugs along very nicely. I just wonder why it wasn't on the album - 16 tracks is short for a 'double album', and this would have made a great opener, or intermission, or something.

    It's a bit inconsequential, so it doesn't deserve one of the highest scores, but it does what it sets out to do very well. 3.5/5
     
  15. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Location:
    Leeds, UK
    The Divine Comedy Ltd
    I think this music could have developed into a more conventional song, but what it did develop into is pretty enjoyable. I agree with Jon that it seems odd it wasn't on the album (and yet another contender for the final track!). This is my first hearing: it's possible that all the Public Relations-speak in the samples might grate a bit more on repeated listens. So, a conservative 3/5
     
  16. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    The Divine Comedy Ltd. - Have to disagree about this belonging on the album, this has third track on a CD single written all over it to me (or third track on CD2 if we were still in the nineties and two CD singles for a release was still a thing. I remember the days when if you bought a single the week it came out you could get the singles half price more often than not, so effectively you ended up buying both CD versions of the song for the price of one. Of course they were usually full of rubbish when you got them home...) The backing track is fairly conventional which makes me wonder if it was meant to be the backing track for a "normal" song but then Neil figured it had no future that way and decided to re-purpose it. It's cute how he's managed to work "Divine Comedy Ltd" into the samples; you can hear that the "Di-" and "-vine" have been glued together from different words to make a new one if you listen carefully... As I say fun, but I can't give it more than 1.5 / 5 though.
     
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  17. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    The Divine Comedy Ltd
    I agree with all you've said. In theory, I think it would make a very good opening track to set the scene; showing us the public face of the company before we zoom in to get into the Queuejumper tearing to work, the person being made redundant and all the rest of the happenings within this factory/office.
    However, I'd imagine I'd start to find it a bit annoying after hearing it too many times.
    3.5/5

    I enjoyed that PBS track (although there is a banjo...), @LivingForever, thanks. I agree it does something very similar.
    I hadn't heard anything from them before, and it sounds great, but if this is what they generally do I'm not sure I'd want to hear more than 1 track at a time.
     
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  18. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    I presumed he'd just got someone to do a new voiceover for that bit, but if what you say is true that's really going the extra mile :p
     
  19. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Well that would be one way of doing it, but then again if you hire someone then they can say whatever you want them to and if you start going down that road you'd end up with something that is more like the middle of "Here Comes The Flood" instead I guess. More like an exercise in writing lyrics, except no-one actually sings them... I suppose the appeal of something like this is to fashion bits and pieces you've found into something completely different.
     
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  20. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Yeah, I'd say this is more on the "wacky" / amusing side of what they do, and thankfully there actually aren't too many of these once you get past their first album, which is a real all-over-the-place effort.

    This one, from the same album, uses the same approach to a more celebral/emotional effect, to my ears - using clips from a 1939 film about the Postal rail service, including WH Auden's famous "This is the night mail, crossing the border, bringing the cheque and the postal order" poem over a more electronic-based backing track.



    Subsequent albums have themes - "The Race for Space" uses clips from 1960's films to document the US and USSR's efforts to explore the sky, whilst "Every Valley" is about the closure of coal pits and the plight of miners, using as you'd expect clips from news reports of the time.

    Both worth a listen in my book, though!
     
  21. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    The last scores round-up before @Hazey John II 's customary chart appears!

    "Opportunity" Knox scored 49.05 from 15 votes, for a preliminary score of 3.27
    After the Lord Mayor's Show
    has so far scored 50.2 from 13 votes, for a score of 3.86
    and
    When the Working Day Is Done
    has racked up 44.95 from 12 votes, for a score of 3.75
     
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  22. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    The Divine Comedy Ltd
    I'd even go so far as to say that it wouldn't sound out of place on their first album, with only the title hinting at this having anything to do with someone else.

    Yes, the first time I heard this I thought, "Why did he leave this off? It's the perfect opener to this 'double album'."

    I've listened to this a lot as the opening track on my expanded double album version and I still enjoy it a lot. Then again, I love Public Service Broadcasting and your mileage may vary.

    I think the music of most of their other songs is a lot better than on their theme song @LivingForever posted, and the banjo coupled with all the samples does make it sound quite gimmicky. Thankfully, there's only one other track on the debut with prominent banjo, but the rest is either more edgy (like "Spitfire" and "Signal 30") or beautiful (like the brilliant "Night Mail" and "Everest").
    After the second album, they must have realised that continuing with the same template might become boring, because half of the third one (Every Valley) has sung vocals (usually from guests) instead of the archive voice samples. From what I've heard, they've ditched those almost completely on their new album (Bright Magic) even on the instrumentals without guest vocals. I haven't had a proper full listen to it yet, though. I saw them live four years ago and they were excellent.

    Great opening track! :winkgrin: By the way, the name of the company and the following voice samples strongly hint at it being a record company/pressing plant:

    No matter your taste or your preference in music.
    More than any other factor, it's this adaptability that has enabled The Divine Comedy Ltd. to achieve their conspicuous success.
    The finest pure vinyl obtainable in just the right amount for one record, [?] to exact diameter.
    Lacquer to master, master to mould, mould to stamper, this completes the cycle.
    The new challenge here is stereophonic recordings.


    To me, this is not throwaway at all, but one of the highlights of the era and a pitch-perfect tribute to Public Service Broadcasting to boot.

    As an opener, this would not only have fitted the album concept thematically but also in terms of having a more experimental and non-TDC sounding number right from the start.

    5
     
  23. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    Thanks for these recommendations both of you.
    I will give the debut and the other albums a listen as the overall sound appeals to me, and the coal pits album sound right up my street (thematically at any rate).
    I had a listen to Night Mail whilst working and did like the Auden poem and the quoted parts, but wasn't really feeling a lot from it musically, although I certainly wasn't put off by it :D
    The electronic music reminds me a little of some of the bits and pieces Neil has done in terms of the structure and little details, which is a good thing. I do tend to find a lot of electronic music tends to sound quite samey/repetitive to me and doesn't really progress throughout a song, so that's good.
    Nice to have something that's to me to look into :)
     
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  24. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lund, Sweden
    Divine Comedy, Ltd.

    Not a particular favourite of mine. I can enjoy a tune with samples (we had the previous bonus track about the wireless, and I've always enjoyed "Wilson" by St. Etienne), but this one doesn't work for me. The music is too buried under all the samples and I can't say that it's an incredibly appealing tune either. So I'm afraid it's already become a bit annoying to me, like @Vagabone feared.

    2.7
     
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  25. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lund, Sweden
    Unfortunately it does not restore the full original double, since it leaves off the (in)famous "Beatles Forever".
     

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