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Timewatching: The Divine Comedy Album-by-album thread

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

  1. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Far behind so here's some quick scores:

    After the Lord Mayor’s Show - One of my favorites of the album. 4.3/5

    Quickly, regarding the theme of the song, I've often been amazed at what a strong career Neil has been able to maintain. From over here, it seems like he is able play to bigger crowds and has released well-regarded music more consistently than all but the biggest bands of his era. And it's got to be more artistically satisfying to be Neil than to be a Gallagher. Right?!

    Yes, that part is very deftly done. You almost don't even notice the key change if you're not listening closely. It doesn't really make a triumphant moment of it, just a slight lift for a few seconds.

    Like the demo version a lot too. Something about the demo and the way it sounds brings to mind that Los Angeles Largo songwriters scene that centers around Jon Brion.

    When the Working Day is Done - Another great one. Towards the end the song grows in an old school Divine Comedy kind of way that really works for me. Feels unlike anything else on this album. 4.25/5

    I'll add that after watching that live version of Working Day (and others from the album) I'm really upset that I didn't get to see the Office Politics tour. I've been lucky enough to have been in the UK for most of the post-2000 full band tours, but wasn't there for this one. I like the set and clothes more than the Napoleon outfit from the previous tour, plus the performances seem pretty great. Nuts!

    The Divine Comedy Ltd

    Not familiar with Public Service Broadcasting but I can see the comparison. The Divine Comedy Ltd song is enjoyable for what it is, and I'll be pleased to hear it pop up occasionally when listening to my music on random. 2.99/5

    Start with everything by The Move, The Idle Race, Roy Wood and quit after the first ELO album. ;)

    The Best Mistakes

    One the one hand, it's not the kind of song (melody & chords wise) that would normally even register with me if it weren't by Neil. Melodically it feels very simple and very much of the times, but run through a slight DC filter. But surprisingly I don't hate it. It's very catchy and for whatever reason it doesn't grate like a song like Diva Lady or Indie Disco does. Perhaps I wouldn't be so generous if it were on a proper album, but there are actual moments that I like. Like that little minor-key dip halfway through the bridge. It's only a small moment, but it helps make the song a little less bland. I can't really find it in myself to begrudge Neil if he wants to look back fondly at his career from this vantage point. Nor can I begrudge his use of the video to remind potential buyers who he is. "Remember these album covers from the weeklies you used to read in the 90's? That's me!! Please buy!" All that brings it into the not annoying realm. Just. 2.9/5
     
  2. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Hah well if even you don't know what you meant then I can be forgiven for getting the wrong end of the stick then. Maybe one should just approach it the way you would an enigmatic song and say it means whatever the reader takes away from it :)
     
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  3. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Didn't realize that was a song released only on a comp. I agree that it's a good song.

    Office Politics the album - The highs may not be as high as some of his best songs of the 2000s, but for me this is his most consistently enjoyable album of that time period. (I wonder if my ratings would bear that out.) There's just very little about this album that bugs me. For me it's slightly more than the sum of it's parts, so as a piece I'll give it 4.25/5
     
  4. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Where Have All the Milkmen Gone? - Two listens is not enough to give a score that truly represents my thoughts about the song, but my initial impressions are positive. 3/5
     
  5. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Jeez! House of Fun is another one that I didn't realize wasn't a proper album song. Greatness!
     
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  6. A Tea-Loving Dave

    A Tea-Loving Dave Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northumberland, UK
    Without a shadow of a doubt, methinks!
     
    LivingForever likes this.
  7. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    Where Have All The Milkmen Gone?

    A very effective, albeit brief, track, I think. The choral vocals and the backing track which keeps shifting between major and minor chords is quite unsettling, and I think this manages to conjure up the same atmosphere as I'm A Stranger Here, but less directly - by framing it all through the central question, it avoids being so obvious, which is the main criticism I had of Stranger. I think it's true that, twenty years ago, it would have found a comfortable home as a b-side, and I can see why it was whittled down from the album as an unnecessary digression, but again, if Office Politics had been a proper sprawling double album, this could have found a very comfortable home on it, even as a segue between two more substantial tracks.

    3.5/5
     
  8. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    This sums up my feelings about it pretty well, although parts of it do bug me, but still I'd give it a slightly higher overall score of 4.5/5
     
  9. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Where Have All The Milkmen Gone - is this the oddest thing Neil has ever done? I find it quite bizarre, and struggle to decide if it's a serious record or just a parody of those who wallow in rose-tinted nostalgia à la the Monty Python "Four Yorkshiremen" sketch. It's interesting what he's doing with the vocals on this (can't decide if it's him multi-tracked dozens of times or just a weird effect he's applying) but I wish he'd put it to better use. 1 /5
     
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  10. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    I bought the subject of up because I genuinely love the song, though it also gives me the opportunity to shamelessly boast that I'm now the owner of the actual Yamaha synth (and associated sequencer) used to create the bass line on True Faith, courtesy of Peter Hook's recent auction of memorabilia. It still blows my mind that it's the actual instrument they sat down at at to record something so special (although it's quite possible they were standing not sitting, come to think of it.) To me it's the equivalent of owning the piano Lennon wrote "Imagine" on. Wasn't exactly cheap, but then again opportunities like that don't come along too often. You've got to grab them with both of your hands! Although now I'm going to have to take down the TDC posters in my music room and replace them with New Order ones hah

    Hardly in the same league, but another underrated new-song-for-a-compilation (there should be a shorter way of saying that, really) is The Beautiful South's waltzing "One Last Love Song." Also contains the lyric "Those bloody great ballads we hated at first / Well I bought them all, now I'm writing worse / Save us from baldness and Saving the Earth" which is great, although I suspect you'd be dropped by your record company instantly these days for singing "save us from Saving the Earth." But I guess that makes it an interesting insight into twenty-five years ago.
     
  11. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lund, Sweden
    I too have had a go at restructuring the album. I hardly think I managed to get it down to a single LP, since I still have 16 tracks, but at least I've managed to make the whole thing into four sides, each having some sort of thematic coherence. Each quarter ends with an synth instrumental as a sort of interlude or palate cleanser before going on to the next theme. Though I'm still in two minds whether each quarter should start or end with the instrumental.

    On CD, this should work fine. On a double LP I'm guessing track 5 would have to end up on side 2 because of length considerations.

    1st quarter: The rise and fall of the bad guy
    Queuejumper
    The Life And Soul Of The Party
    A Feather In Your Cap
    'Opportunity' Knox
    The Erotic Dreams Of Andrea Palladio

    2nd quarter: Dystopia reigns supreme
    I'm A Stranger Here
    Dark Days Are Here Again
    The Berlin Airlift

    3rd quarter: I just wasn't made for these times
    Absolutely Obsolete
    Infernal Machines
    You'll Never Work In This Town Again
    Nordyland 83

    4th quarter: All hail the working class
    Norman And Norma
    After The Lord Mayor's Show
    When The Working Day Is Done
    ARP Break (a bit of a cheat, but since Neil says that all these songs had a common origin, I drafted it for my take on album)
     
  12. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I also didn't know that this classic was only available on the greatest hits album of that period.

    Unfortunately, it isn't, which is why it's never played on tour (the lower chart position didn't help either).
    I agree, that's why I didn't mention it. Generic trance rears its ugly head on that track.

    I wasn't too keen on it either, because the music and the verses veer off into Schlagerland, but the chorus is hard to resist. I warmed to it when I found out that it isn't a generic love song but an anti-war song.

    I briefly thought of that, too, but a rerecorded version of it forms an integral part of their following album Memorial Beach, so to me it's just a first taster of the direction they would pursue after the greatest hits album.

    Oh, it's one of my very favourite of their songs, but it doesn't really qualify as it was already released on the Man On The Moon soundtrack in 1999 and a single in 2000, while the greatest hits album was released much later in 2003. Its new bonus tracks were "Bad Day" and "Animal" (obviously not in the same league).
    Similarly, I didn't mention Blondie's "Call Me" from their 1981 best of album, because it was first released on the American Gigolo soundtrack and a single in 1980.

    Of course, definitely one of their classics (though not one of my favourites).

    Good call. I'm not sure whether it's the greatest of its kind, but it's definitely high up on my list.
     
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  13. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Well it's definitely about war (and a very specific one at that) but I don't think you could call a song anti-war when it has lyrics like "I can see it in your eyes how proud you were to fight for freedom in this land"; if anything it's pro-war. Or at least pro-the idea of taking up arms to protect what you believe in (which admittedly isn't what a lot of wars are about, or at least not for the people doing the actual fighting.)
     
  14. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Congratulations! As I don't play any keyboards, I can say this without envy. "True Faith" is a fantastic song.
     
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  15. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Thanks :) Well to be fair they never actually played it to create the bass line on True Faith, they just programmed the notes into the sequencer and technology did the rest really. Think of it more like programming a microwave (I would've said a video recorder but I'm not sure anyone does that any more.) Although admittedly there's less artistic intent involved when cooking a ready meal...
     
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  16. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    That's true. Let's settle for war song then, as thankfully it doesn't carry a jingoistic war-can-be-fun message with lines like "I was so afraid, Fernando/We were young and full of life and none of us prepared to die/And I'm not ashamed to say/The roar of guns and cannons almost made me cry".
     
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  17. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Where Have all the Milkmen Gone?

    Thematically this seems to fit into the “Absolutely Obsolete / Infernal Machines / You’ll Never Work” sequence , whereas musically it fits more with the stuff in the second half of the album (albeit none of them have a male voice choir, if that really is what that is! - ok, no, it’s clearly a bunch of Neils)

    Like others have said, if you’re really going for that “all over the place” double album feel then heck, chuck this on and whatever other nonsense you have lying around. May as well go all in!

    I like the echoey piano and tinkly percussion sounds as well as the occasional little swooping guitar notes.

    I do also like the way the whole thing takes a very odd turn with the lyric about the milkmen being blasted into space, and the sort of spacey sounds. Completely barmy, though I don’t think I’m likely to score it any higher than a 3.5 whether it was on the album or not…
     
  18. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Where Have All the Milkmen Gone?
    Yes, I like it because of all the things you both described.
    The melody is nothing to write home about, really, and the whole style of this lament hiding behind a question is not really my cup of tea, which is why I can't give it more than a 3. But it fits the topic and has become an integral part of my expanded and electronically enhanced double album, even if it is my only addition that's not synthy.

    It's definitely my favourite post-Regeneration album as well and actually has been my most-played TDC album since I bought the box set. I think my average is exactly 4, with my expanded version only bringing it up to 4.02, though I still vastly prefer it over the official version. Overall, I'd rate it as a 4.5 album like @The Turning Year. It really is more than the sum of its parts.
     
  19. LivingForever

    LivingForever Forum Arachibutyrophobic Thread Starter

    Shall we do one more bonus track?

    Take Your Drum

    A short piece from the Office Politics 2020 bonus disc.

     
  20. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Lowering average scores since 2021

    Location:
    London, UK
    Take Your Drum
    This reminds me somehow of the theme tune to 90s kids show How2 presented by Carol Vorderman and Fred Dinage, I think? Or was it another guy ....? Maybe Fred did the original How?... Anyway!
    I haven't checked, so it probably doesn't sound like it at all!

    I'm a bit addicted to this somehow, it's got some great sounds in it. I think that hiss, some of the really 'cold' sounding synths, and then 'let's go' are all fabulous, slightly bonkers, and very non-TDC sounding.
    Is it the machines taking over, threatening to take away someone's 'drum' metaphorically as in squashing their right to protest?
    That's how I see it anyway, and it features on my album reshuffle, although I haven't decided exactly where.
    3.7/5
     
  21. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Take Your Drum

    Not that this is great or anything, but I wouldn't have minded if there were a few more moments like this on the actual album. It would need to be either shorter or more developed to work on the album though. 2.75/5
     
  22. drykid

    drykid Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hereford, UK
    Take Your Drum - this is another one of those things that doesn't sound to me like a proper attempt by Neil to get down anything that could realistically be used on an album. More like someone doodling around with technology for his own personal amusement. Although I'm reminded of how - as explained it in the box set - he found himself having to come up with some bonus tracks for BGTK at short notice and ended up giving them an early version of Napoleon Complex because it was all he had at the time. Which he subsequently regretted given that it was a bit too good for such a fate. I wonder therefore if he now knocks out something like this occasionally so that the next time someone comes calling he has something ready-prepared which is more of the standard required. Regardless of why he does these it's completely inconsequential, even if it does stay in your head after you've heard it. 0 / 5
     
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  23. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    Take Your Drum

    I sort of agree with what everyone has said so far, despite the wildly different scores. I quite like it for what it is - I often find the instrumental synthy stuff a bit hard to grasp, but the vocal part gives this something catch hold of, so I like that. It's a bit inconsequential, but there's no real reason for it not to be. It's a track I'd like to find a place for on my double album tracklist, but I haven't found an obvious home for it yet.

    2/5
     
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  24. a paul

    a paul Forum Resident

    Location:
    London
    Drum
    Another strange one that I would have been fine with being on the album. If it was played on the radio I obviously wouldn't have even the slightest thought that it would be Neil. But it's fun. 3/5
     
  25. Dalav

    Dalav Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey
    The Best Mistakes

    After a good number of listens, I don't mind it. I'd add it to a playlist (let's say maybe a 5-CD set, not a 2-CD best-of comp). But it all feels a bit too obvious a play--unfortunate baggage that will stick with it upon each listen. Genetically engineered for effect without the cleverness and subtlety we generally look for in his work. Lyrically, it doesn't feel like Neil, and that might be my biggest issue. I do have the sense that 10 years from now Neil will want to walk it back, as he did with Too Young To Die. But as @Hazey John II and @ericthegardener point out, there's a certain allowance to be given as an extra track on a compilation album. Hard to fault Neil for that. Plus, in part the notion of a compilation sparks, or is sparked by, career-reflective moods.

    A few random thoughts: the strings in the chorus sound very Bittersweet Symphony-ish. I like the way Neil downshifts and trails off to a more subdued "I choose...now". I agree that the mistake/not a fake line is a rough one. I much prefer, "I've been a poet , a preacher, a fool and a rake". Sometimes (especially in the later years), as in this song, to my ear Neil pushes his vocals too high, where they sound slightly strained, rather than a bit lower in the vocal sweet spot of his that I prefer. But I guess some of that perceived strain may just be that it's noticeably harder to hit the notes now that used to come easily, understandably. Finally, love the way light is used throughout the video--a feast for the eyes.

    3.75/5
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021

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