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Timewatching: The Divine Comedy Album-by-album thread

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

  1. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lund, Sweden
    Theme from Casanova

    One of Neil's very best melodies set to a beautiful accompaniment. Some lovely la-la-las are introduced towards halfway of the track, and then there's an ending where the intensity just increases with some ambient storm sounds in the background. To be honest, I don't think I'd ever noticed before today how long that ending really is. And those final horse sounds - well, they gotta be an oblique reference to "Caroline, No", right?

    I love my instrumentals, and the spoken introduction to this track is just icing on the cake. Remember, I don't like spoken lyrics much, but I don't mind spoken introductions! ;)

    4.8
     
  2. James Cunningham

    James Cunningham Forum Resident

    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Theme From Casanova

    As has already been mentioned, this is the perfect antidote to the previous track. I am delighted to see the positive comments already posted about this one today; I thought it might come across as a little too twee for many tastes.

    I absoloutely love it, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. A lovely melody, brilliant arrangement and a genius voice-over make this such a joyous little track. The stereotypical modulation doesn't even begin to annoy me either :laugh:

    4.75/5
     
  3. rediffusion

    rediffusion Forum Resident

    Theme from Casanova: 3
     
  4. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Welcome to the thread, and the forum! Glad to have you onboard, and to get a female perspective on the catalogue for once will be a nice refreshing change!
     
  5. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Theme from Casanova

    It would be easy to let this one slip by, but the fact that he would do a song like this really made it feel like I was stepping into a whole different world when I first got into DC, which was something I really needed at the time. Speaking of TV theme songs, this one also could easily be repurposed as the theme for a slightly melancholic, gentle brit-com about some lovable pensioners. 4/5
     
  6. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Theme from Casanova

    As I hinted at yesterday, I think my MOST favourite thing about this track is the way you have this intense finale to "Through a Long and Sleepless Night", with Neil's screamed sustained note over the majestic orchestral climax... and then the very next thing you hear is:

    "Dee-deedle-dee-deedle-dee" , as the piano (or is it that Wurlitzer?) chugs cheerfully along, and then the exaggeratedly posh voice does a perfect pastiche of the BBC announcement. I roared with laughter the first time I heard it, and to this day it's still one of my favourite sequences on a TDC album, and one of the "humorous" bits of Neil's music I still find funny, long after I started groaning at the thought of jolly hostesses serving crisps and tea...

    What better way to puncture something so intense, (some might say obnoxiously pretentious), than by following it up with something so completely ridiculous that it brings you back down to earth with a bump?

    The "Song" itself is another perfect parody of some sort of light entertainment piece, or lift muzak, but Neil's innate sense of melody doesn't allow it to become cheesy, and it's certainly up there in the league table of "Best TDC instrumental".

    5/5 for the joke, but if I'm rating it as a song, I think it's more of a 4.
     
  7. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Ahh, here's your first post! The forum requires all first posts to be approved by a moderator, and then when they get approved, they slot into the place where you posted them (a page or so back), so it's quite common for your first couple of posts to get completely missed by everyone.

    Bumping it for you... ;)
     
    The Turning Year likes this.
  8. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Well-Known Member

    Location:
    UK
    Thank you for the kind welcome and for drawing attention to my 'hello' ramble!

    Its nice to be involved as I don't know any 'real world' people who really get TDC and I'm struggling to find time to make it through the box set without intensely confusing my TDC novice husband...

    (Incidentally, anyone know how to edit a previous post on mobile as I keep making silly predictive text typos?)
     
    LivingForever likes this.
  9. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    Today's analysis by The Flan in the High Castle is a bit shorter than usual:

    The penultimate track, “Theme from Casanova“, is paradoxical on several levels. Shaped like the name of a track from a film score, the title positions it as the essential heart of the album, but actually it’s a relaxing instrumental quite unlike any of the songs. As Hannon explains, it’s the closest he’s done to a self-titled song: “From the ridiculous to the sublime. This is probably the purest expression of Divine Comedy schizophrenia to date, and I didn’t have to say a word on it.” This would seem to contradict Hannon’s claim that The Divine Comedy is about a battle between the “sacred and profane”, as “Theme from Casanova” is sacred to the core.

    Hannon likes to structure albums with an unusually soft penultimate track – Liberation has its sole instrumental in the slot (“Europe by Train”), while Promenade has its quietest and most minimalistic track (“Ten Seconds to Midnight”). “Theme from Casanova” is the most intriguing instance yet, with an inventive framing device: a spoken-word introduction performed by band member Joby Talbot, in the clipped manner of a BBC Radio continuity announcer. “The Divine Comedy’s Casanova, a collection of songs for bass-baritone and ensemble, inspired by the writings of the eighteenth-century Venetian gambler, eroticist, and spy. And performed for us there by the composer, Neil Hannon. He was accompanied in that 1995 recording by a specially-assembled group of young musicians under the baton of Dr Joby Talbot. The programme was devised by The Divine Comedy, and was produced in our London studios by Darren Allison. Now, as we’re running a little ahead of schedule, there’s just time for one extra item, so I’ll leave you with the haunting strains of ‘Theme from Casanova‘…”

    Most of this monologue is perfectly true, with the charming exception of the “schedule” conceit – the idea that we’ve got lucky, and that this is a bonus we’ve been granted by chance rather than a carefully-chosen component of the tracklist. Another quibble: if Hannon couldn’t even finish Dante’s Divine Comedy, the claim that the album is inspired by Giacomo Casanova’s writings seems dubious at best – the general pop-cultural idea of the man is a much more likely source material. (On a related note, I’m 99% sure that Russell T Davies’s Casanova miniseries would’ve been sampled somewhere on this record if only it had existed at the time – David Tennant even looks weirdly like Hannon in it.)

    Talbot’s monologue is spoken over a simple rhythmic loop of electric organ and acoustic guitar. The only track with a similar feel is “Songs of Love”, which makes sense – they’re the two [something is missing here]. The brass comes in, and when Hannon’s voice eventually joins, it’s effectively just another instrument, his only line being “La la-la-la la”. That said, he gets quite a bit of mileage out of it, turning that five-syllable chain over again and again, examining its different dimensions: wistful, contented, melancholy, weary, glad. Hannon’s voice is accompanied by soaring, needling, reaching strings not entirely unlike the godly climax of “Don’t Look Down”.
     
  10. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Unfortunately the forum has a 30-minute cutoff for making edits, so if you spot your mistake any later than that, you can’t fix it regardless of where you try!

    And you have no idea how many posts in this thread I’d like to go back and update!
     
    The Turning Year likes this.
  11. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Location:
    Eastleigh
    Theme From Casanona - lovely stuff. By its very nature, it's one of the least consequential tracks on the album, and I'd argue that the melody isn't really anything that special (imagine Neil singing a regular vocal line to it - I'm not sure it would stand out), but as an arrangement, it's great, and there's some real variation between the pastiche of the beginning and the more ethereal fade-out ending. It's also, as has been mentioned, yet another bit of audacity from Neil, though perhaps not without precedent. Blur come to mind again - they quite like their little instrumental intermission tracks (see Parklife).

    It's surprising, maybe, that we didn't get a pure instrumental version on the boxset. As a track, it doesn't make a lot of sense out of context, whereas without the narration, it would be a lovely bit of backing music to all sorts of situations. On the album, however, it's a perfect bridge between the tracks on either side of it.

    3.5/5
     
  12. andres lira

    andres lira Forum Resident

    Location:
    lima, peru
    Theme From Casanona - 3.2
    This one is hard to rate. Its not something you put on your playlist as an individual track but it makes the album flow very nicely after the previous song drama. You could say its rather bland but in the end it helps the record to become more than the sum of its parts.
     
    LivingForever likes this.
  13. Hazey John II

    Hazey John II Forum Resident

    I thought I felt the same, but I'm more and more looking forward to getting to the calmer albums and hopefully discovering some tracks that have passed me by because they're not so attention-grabbing. Also, there's something about young artists getting a free pass - even though Neil did mellow, I don't think I would have wanted to hear 40-year-old Neil bellowing like this. It's just impossible to be cool at that age! I'm also quite excited to see what he does next - people often start turning in interesting stuff in their 50s and 60s when they don't care much about their careers anymore. The weirder end of Office Politics gives me a lot of hope.

    Welcome @The Turning Year! Great point - I don't think Charge would work as well for me without the switch into Songs of Love, or A Drinking Song -> Ten Seconds to Midnight. Hm, that's almost annoying that he could pull the same trick three times and it works brilliantly every time!

    Great calls, but this is going to get messy: longest single note, or longest phrase? I'm going to rank by phrase, as a challenge of physical endurance not artistic purity, but much as I'd love The Summerhouse to take the crown, there's no comparison:
    LONGEST NOTE LEAGUE TABLE (=note, -phrase)
    1. Through a Long and Sleepless Night, 5:45=6:06, 21 seconds
    2. The Summerhouse 2:51=2:56-3:09, 5/18 seconds
    3. Your Daddy's Car, 3:18=3:27-3:29, 9/11 seconds

    Yep!

    On this track, ‘Theme From Casanova’, you give the album credits. Did you hesitate before deciding?
    N: A little and then I said ****, let's go! It comes after ‘Through a Long and Sleepless Night’ which has a huge and pompous ending. It almost sounds like Rocky's music. Something lighter was needed. Surely there will be some very serious people who say, “You can't allow yourself that on a record. You are an artist! ” Do not care ... One clarification in passing: it is not my voice that speaks the credits, but that of my keyboardist.

    This song begins as elevator music and then takes another direction ...
    N:Yes and I am quite happy with this title. First there are these two very ‘easy listening’ and a little silly parts but I didn't know how to conclude. A friend took care of the string arrangements for this final. The stupid ones from the start are mine. We added that thunderous sound, which communicates that feeling of progress, of something growing, growing, and suddenly fainting. I also had to put my reference to Pet Sounds: hence the dog barking! After that, there is still this song recorded live with a large orchestra. As I keep saying "Goodbye, goodbye" there, it was difficult to put it at the beginning… And then, I still couldn't finish on this "Theme From Casanova", that would have been too bad.

    MOFO May 1996 (Google Translated)
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
  14. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I agree, the contrast is great.

    Yes, it works better in the context of the album, and I enjoyed your descripton of its effect.

    I second every word here...

    ...but have to disagree here. The first two minutes are excellent and would get a 5 from me, but then the whole track outstays its welcome even longer than "Europe By Train". It doesn't help that the track turns into a schmaltzy cheesefest, which is no wonder given the Roger Whittaker comparisons. He was a massive Schlager star in Germany in the 1980s, so I'm afraid I developed an allergy to his output in my childhood. 2.5/5 thanks to the great intro and the sound effects foreshadowing the final song.

    You thought right in my case. It's too easy listening for me.

    As for instrumentals, I'd rather listen to "Bontempi Beats 3", "Electro Wurly Groove", or the excellent "Berlin Airlift" (from the new Office Politics bonus disc).
     
    James Cunningham likes this.
  15. Hazey John II

    Hazey John II Forum Resident

    Nothing insightful to say about this one that hasn't already been said. I love the intro too - I rarely listen to Radio 3, but I love to know it's there. And the parody is so pitch perfect - "bass baritone and ensemble", "that 1995 recording", "produced in our London studios", the little facts about Casanova. @LivingForever, I also find the transition hilarious - something about treating TALASN as worthy of this kind of attention. In fact, the intro probably elevates the whole album somewhat by treating it like a Britten opera or a Rachmaninov concerto, by making it appear like it has the BBC's blessing - a bit like Morrissey insisting his autobiography was a Penguin Classic. Similarly, it gives us permission to enjoy the trite melody (@jon-senior, I agree it's not strong enough for a lyric), though we might struggle enjoy, say, Stranger On The Shore. There's a little arch wink there - 'OK, we're doing this kind of thing, isn't it nice?' But it works.

    It's too long for me, I start to wonder how I would edit it down, and get impatient for the gorgeous strings to develop at the end. But the last minute or so is wonderful. 4/5
     
  16. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    They even started this on Modern Life Is Rubbish (a Hannon favourite) with the aptly titled "Intermission" and "Commercial Break". Those were a cross between music hall and punk, though, and the easy listening ones indeed turned up in the Parklife era.

    I do hope that he will continue in this vein, but I fear he might return to the more typical TDC style of the preceding four albums.
     
    happysunshine and Hazey John II like this.
  17. Hazey John II

    Hazey John II Forum Resident

    I've found it revealing to dig out Neil's intentions on many of the songs, but I agree any text is open to fresh non-authorial interpretation - if the interpretation can be supported by the text. In this particular case, I don't think the Flan's reading is, at least at the extreme. But then again, it's probably worth proposing the extreme, because that makes it easier to consider how well it fits, which may lead to new insights anyway - better than not considering it at all.

    You're so right! After you mentioned this, it occurred to me that TALASN is part In The Cage, part Blood On The Rooftops. The overt 60s influences of Britpop obscure how much 70s is in there too - glam (Slade, Bowie), but also the poppier end of prog - Genesis, ELO, 10cc. Electro Wurly Groove made me think of Bloody Well Right by Supertramp.

    Heh - I looked Roger Whittaker up on Spotify earlier and was bemused to have to scroll through about 30 German albums to get to his 60s work!
     
    LivingForever and The Booklover like this.
  18. a paul

    a paul Active Member

    Location:
    London
    Hard to know how to rate this one, but it's so lovely by the end of it, and it just feels like the album would now be missing something without it. Will give it a 4.
     
  19. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Are you just speaking of songs that have already been reviewed in this thread? Because there's one we'll get to later on that will blow them all away. Song's a bit crap though.
     
  20. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Great point! The verses are very “In the Cage” - not that Neil has probably ever heard that song. Or would never admit to it, anyway... ;)
     
  21. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Yep, as @The Turning Year pointed out - there is one which will beat everything, though because it deliberately tells you that’s what it’s doing, I agree that it should probably be excluded...
     
  22. Zardok

    Zardok Forum Resident

    Location:
    Castle Cary
    Theme from Casanova 4.8

    Wonderfully haunting instrumental, again so sixties... when I first listened to it I recognised it even though I'd never heard it before. There is a natural prejudice against instrumentals in this type of exercise because we can't be all clever-clogs about the interpretation of the lyrics - and Neil is such a wonderful wordsmith, it's hardly "yeah yeahs" being dissected - but this is a brilliant tune and qualifies as one of the best four or five tracks on the album.
     
  23. happysunshine

    happysunshine Can’t think of a good custom title

    Location:
    Kalmar, Sweden
    Through a Long and Sleepless Night

    I was quite surprised by how high a lot of you rate this song! It never really stood out much from the rest of the album, but reading your comments and listening anew gave me a fresh perspective. It is rather epic and there are some similarities to ”Charge” arrangement-wise, but this is definitely the better song! Really like that metronomic piano note that goes on throughout the song. I guess that’s a reference to the slow passing of time during a long and sleepless night? IMHO, the verses aren’t melodically that interesting but good lord, that ”I DON’T CAAAARE” more than make up for it! 3/5

    Theme from Casanova

    I’ll go out on a limb here and call this an instrumental masterpiece. My taste might be a bit weird but this is a 5/5 and the album would be incomplete without it! Love the faux BBC announcer and Joby’s arrangement elevates a pretty simple melody to higher spheres. Those wordless ”la la” vocals and heavenly strings are a match made in, er, heaven. The ending ”jam” seems to be a pointer to the ”ambient strings” section of ”Eric the Gardener”. Lovely! Once again: 5/5

    The Dogs and the Horses

    What an ending. Just perfect. Hearing this I’m reminded of how much I miss Joby Talbot. His (dramatic) arrangement work here seems to be a precursor to the instrumental section of ”The Certainty of Chance”. A friend of mine who’s a Scott Walker fan once asked me to recommend him some new music, something modern but Walkeresque. I told him to give this song a listen and he was instantly hooked. Mission accomplished. Anyway, I’m sure others can do a proper analysis of this masterpiece. I’ll settle for a cool 5/5 rating.

    By the way, why was an audience recording of this song chosen as a bonus track on the 2020 reissue? It’s a great performance, but surely there must be higher quality versions available?
     
  24. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    I can’t recall 100%, but I seem to remember the guy who did the artwork direction on the new boxset was at this gig and Neil put it on there as a nod to him? I think I read that on one of the many hundreds of TDC social media posts since the boxset came out...
     
    happysunshine likes this.
  25. ericthegardener

    ericthegardener Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    That's what I get for skimming. Sorry!
     
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