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Timewatching: The Divine Comedy Album-by-album thread

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

  1. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Well-Known Member

    I love that you both had this initial reaction, and that you've both changed your minds! There's such great variety in TDC fans tastes, which reflects the variety in the music.

    You're both the exact opposite to me with this track, which was my favourite from my very first listen to the album when I was about 15!
    happysunshine and LivingForever like this.
  2. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Well-Known Member


    Yes to the oil painting!
    I can imagine something like that too, possibly on the national gallery....?! (maybe no horses though...) Will have a think!
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
    Hazey John II likes this.
  3. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    So then, we have reached the end of “Casanova”, sadly! That went far too quickly...

    What happens next is people can discuss their overall feelings for the album for a bit, and at some point in the next few days we will get the delightfully colourful final scores from @Hazey John II which will also give us a final score for the whole album.

    And, while we wait for that - we will discuss some of the B-sides and other tracks from this period ahead of moving onto “A Short Album”. For the first time in this thread, we have actual Neil-penned B-sides to get our teeth into!

    Here are the tracks I intend for us to properly discuss and rate before moving to ASAAL:

    Birds of Paradise Farm
    Motorway to Damascus
    Love is Lighter Than Air (Magnetic Fields cover)
    There is a Light That Never Goes Out (Smiths cover)
    My Lovely Horse (?) (plus look at other “Father Ted” bits on the same day? Open to suggestions here, can My Lovely Horse warrant a whole day? ;) )

    Then, we’ll cover briefly some of the new (old) stuff from the 2020 bonus disc (most of these are little doodles of ideas, and don’t really warrant proper rating and discussion):

    Hannon’s Game
    Crapper’s Delight
    Solsbury Eel
    Stereo Laboratory

    So I reckon we’ll be starting on ASAAL in about a week. Hope that’s ok!
  4. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Leeds, UK
    A very beautiful song.
    The image of the narrator's beloved horses and dogs from throughout his life coming back to say goodbye to him in his room, gathering around his death bed is one I will treasure.
    Though come to think of it, it's reminiscent of Jacques Brel, in "Le dernier repas", saying that at his last supper he wants to see his donkey and all his hens, geese, cattle and wives.

    I'm not aware of any negative connotation of "every dog has its day" or "every horse has its year". I thought they simply meant that we all have our moment in the sun, but everything ends. He's certainly saying its sad that you have to outlive your pets.
  5. Zardok

    Zardok Forum Resident

    Castle Cary
    The Dogs and the Horses


    My first exposure to The Divine Comedy was to "A Short Album About Love" and I think I quickly "got" the blend of honesty and artifice, drama and comedy which makes up the cocktail that is Neil Hannon's songwriting. I couldn't help noticing, and feeling amused, by the many references to animals on that particular album - "stupid sheep" "if you were a dog", "if you were a horse", "Don't look a horse in the mouth Don't let a frog get you down Dragging you round like a dog on a lead."

    So when I started working my way backwards through their catalogue, initially with "Casanova", I couldn't help feeling that this song, with its "dogs and horses" is the bridge between those two albums. After the instrumental, it has the feel of a coda to "Casanova" and it can also be seen as a prequel to the themes of ASAAL.

    This is a great song because it teeters on bathos but delivers pathos. Neil's Irishness is often referred to but his Britishness is just as important a part of his make-up, and the British are notoriously (or used to be) reticent at showing their feelings - hence the need for humour and irony to displace the displays of emotion. These are generalisations and loose stereotypes but a very common weapon in Neil's armoury; he brings up a tragic or sad occurence and refers to it lightly but you know there is a real empathy there with the sufferer/victim. In "The Dogs and The Horses" the animals are not a figure of fun but a testament to the passing of time and the transience of all things which must pass. Every small victory is but a postponement of the final, inevitable, defeat.

    Another title for "Casanova", which would have underlined it's relationship to ASAAL, could have been "A Short Album About Lust". So the pairing or the dichotomy is between sex and romance, the two sides of a relationship. For those uncomfortable with Neil's lustier statements some consolation, the relative positioning of the twowould seem to indicate love wins, in his view.

    As for the song itself, it builds up from introspective intimacy into a big, powerful number about longing and loss which rounds off an excellent album perfectly. Neil is in great voice here, both subtle and powerful and perfectly paced. Strong candidate for Divine Comedy all-time Top 10.
  6. James Cunningham

    James Cunningham Forum Resident

    Edinburgh, UK
    The Dogs And The Horses

    I have mulled my score for this one all day... I really like the song, but feel that this set a marker for which would be bettered on A Short Album....

    As a Casanova encore/reflection it brings a touch of gravitas to the excesses of what we have just went though. However, as part of the entire catalogue, it isn't really in 5 territory for me...

    Neil and Joby must have looked back upon this session with eyes wide and realised what they could really achieve as a creative unit.

  7. Radiophonic_

    Radiophonic_ Electrosonic

    Royal Oak MI
    Yes, you’re right about the phrase. I wonder where I got the wrong impression about its meaning. In any event, it does change the meaning quite a bit. I find it a bit weird to focus on pets rather than family (yes, some consider pets family), but we wouldn’t have a song otherwise, so...
  8. A Tea-Loving Dave

    A Tea-Loving Dave Well-Known Member

    Northumberland, UK
    A lovely way to end the album, even if - as noted already - it sometimes feels like it would be more at home on Fin de Siècle than it does here. Definitely one of the tracks I would love to see revived in live performance, too.

  9. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    I think we can get a day out of the Ted tracks generally without too much trouble.
    There are also a few collaborations from this era we could throw in if you thought it was worthwhile - my Casanova era mp3 folder also contains Split and Tango Ballad by Ute Lemper, Need Your Love So Bad by Elvis DaCosta and the love performance of Oh Yeah! with Ash. But, obviously none of those are real Divine Comedy songs, so you'd be justified in skipping over them.
  10. Vagabone

    Vagabone Forum Resident

    Leeds, UK
    He starts with mentioning dogs and horses in a poetical, metaphorical sense, then surprises us by mentioning them again a few lines later in a literal sense. Its a songwriterly device. (As I see it.)
    The Turning Year likes this.
  11. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Well-Known Member

    This just reminded me that Neil has said more than once in recent interviews that he spends more time with dogs than people, and prefers their company as he knows what they're thinking and they know what he's thinking.
    Perhaps this has always been the case!
    The Booklover and LivingForever like this.
  12. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Considering how many dogs and horses he's owned in recent years, I can only imagine how crowded his death bed is going to be... ;)
    Zardok likes this.
  13. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    All good calls but the Ute Lemper material is from 1999 so I'll tackle it after "Fin". I especially want to cover the couple of tracks which Neil and Joby wrote!

    I'll look into where the other two belong chronologically and make sure they don't pass by without comment even if neither are exactly artistic highlights ;)
    jon-senior likes this.
  14. Zardok

    Zardok Forum Resident

    Castle Cary
    Pointless parallel. For some reason the image I always got from the end "Dogs and Horses" is that of Thomas Hardy's poem "The Oxen" about the old country lore that the oxen would all kneel at midnight on the eve of Christmas.

    Not that I'm saying Neil is the new Messiah, he's just a very naughty boy.
    Vagabone and LivingForever like this.
  15. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    My wife has seen TDC with me many times since 2011, and we were watching the "Short Album" DVD the other day, where "Dogs and Horses" is the last track and is greeted like some sort of mega hit / fan favourite that was obviously always going to be the set closer.

    "Why doesn't he play *this* any more?", she said. A good question!
  16. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Some scores still to come in, probably, but "The Dogs and the Horses" has so far scored 62.1 points from 14 votes, giving it a preliminary score of:

  17. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Preliminary scores for "Casanova" as a whole:

    Something for the weekend: 4.77
    Alfie: 4.44
    Middle class: 3.82
    In and Out: 3.09
    Charge: 3.81
    Songs of love: 4.88
    Frog Princess: 3.71
    Woman of the World: 3.82
    Long and Sleepless Night: 4.29
    Theme from Casanova: 3.97
    The dogs and the horses: 4.44

    Album total : 4.09

    Rankings so far on our Divine Comedy Journey:

    1. Promenade (4.12)
    2. Casanova (4.09)
    3. Liberation (3.62)
    4. Indulgence No. 1 (2.81)
    5. Europop EP (2.49)
    6. Fanfare for the Comic Muse (2.46)
    7. Timewatch EP (2.24)
    (these are based on my original count-ups, I've not gone back and redone them based on @Hazey John II 's charts but will happily do so when I can find the time :) )
  18. christian42

    christian42 Forum Resident

    Lund, Sweden

    I think this album is better than its predecessor, though it's still an album of ups and downs. The good stuff is excellent, but there's a couple of tracks that really drag it down. We'll come to the B-sides soon, but I think the album would have been improved with at least one substitution...

    The main problem - if you can call it that - with the early TDC albums are their unevenness. While later albums may not have the incredible heights that we've seen so far ("Tonight We Fly", "Songs of Love" et al) they are all much more cohesive and of a more uniform quality.

    But no matter, we're still on an upward trajectory, so my complaints won't be too loud.
  19. LivingForever

    LivingForever Always one more tomorrow... Thread Starter

    Today’s song is:

    Birds of Paradise Farm

    A short intro from me today, because like most B-sides, there is very little information available, not even from Neil in his new liner notes.

    Notable for being the only time Neil mentions his full name in a song, as well as giving out most of the address of his parents’ house - which leads me to suspect that it was written whilst living there (possibly during the writing for “Lib” and “Prom”?)

    The song was released as the B-side to “Something for the Weekend”, and also appeared as a bonus track on the Japanese issue of “Casanova”. Apparently it also featured on some issues of “A Short Album About Love”, and the Wikipedia page for that album claims that Neil plays everything on this song apart from drums and percussion by Darren Allison (and strings and winds by the same players as the Casanova album - although, are there any strings or winds?)

    Anyway, here’s today’s song:

  20. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Back in 1996, I felt that ending Casanova with an orchestrated ballad repeated the trick Suede had done on Dog Man Star's finale "Still Life" in 1994. The orchestration was even more overblown there, but I think it worked better. Or maybe I just love that song more.
    Anyway, TDC get 4/5 from me for this (for all the positive things that have already been said about it here).

    I'm not convinced by this part either. It sounds incongruous, especially with the güiro suddenly suggesting we're on a tropical island.

    It's a shame this wasn't included on the new bonus disc. I prefer it to the album version, which I feel is a bit too overblown in its loud parts. The only thing I don't like about this solo recording is the slight distortion during the louder vocal parts. To anyone who has this on CD: is that maybe just due to the file uploaded to YouTube or a fault of the production?
    It's also interesting that "day" isn't omitted and overlaps with the "days" of the next line.

    Interestingly, the order of this list reveals the narrator's priorities. Thankfully, Neil didn't sing "all the dogs and the horses and the wives", which would have upped the ante in terms of misogyny.

    It foreshadows his involvement with "My Lovely Horse Rescue" and related songs about dogs.
  21. The Booklover

    The Booklover Forum Resident

    Luckily, the Flan offers a detailed analysis of it. As you've probably noticed by the late arrival of my scores, I'm having difficulty in keeping up with the speed of the thread at the moment. I was going to post the Flan's thoughts on Casanova as a whole first before moving on to the B-sides, but I can also squeeze the new song in first.
  22. James Cunningham

    James Cunningham Forum Resident

    Edinburgh, UK
    Birds of Paradise Farm

    A very nice song, but definitely not within the ouvre of Casanova. It is too good a song not to be recorded, but I'm not sure which (if any) album it would feel at home on.
    The string parts here just seem to be long notes- it would have been easier just to use a decent synth in this case. The only winds I heard on this playthrough was the flute trill near the beginning, and a little counter melody in the last 40 seconds or so... admittedly I was listening on my phone without headphones.

  23. jon-senior

    jon-senior Forum Resident

    Hmmm, wonder how I managed to get that chronology wrong? Now I won't be able to rest until I've retagged them!
    I think the Ash duet is a lot of fun. The DaCosta one is considerably less so...
  24. The Turning Year

    The Turning Year Well-Known Member

    Thank you!
    I'd not heard this one before getting the box set. Its very nice and definitely warranted recording.

    A sweet sentiment and part of the continuing theme of animals/nature/environment that crops up throughout Neil's (mainly non-album) work.
    It has that trademark TDC combo of a bright and breezy sound and (for me!) quite sad or heavy subject matter. If you don't listen to the words or only hear the chorus, it seems super-cheery.

    Those poor birds - I'm sure he set them free at the end (but only for them to be eaten by predators...!)

    Including his parents' address is a bit odd (although given his father's job it would've been semi-public anyway).
    I wonder whether his poor parents received an influx of essays from female literature students after that b side came out...?!

    I don't really get the Leonardo Da Vinci / St Francis of Assissi reference. Does anyone know what that's about?

    I think it would fit best on Liberation. With the jangly guitar, innocent subject matter and Neil playing everything himself, it has more of that feel about it for me. (Think a Liberation era vocal would've worked better, actually, as it sounds a bit too 'imperious' for the subject of the song).

    Yeah its really hard to hear properly on a phone.

    After 2 listens with headphones, I don't think it is real strings - sounds like keyboard strings to me, not even a decent synth, but I could be wrong!
    Also, I'm 99% certain those aren't real flute trills (but am prepared to be told otherwise!).

    Score: 3.5/5
  25. happysunshine

    happysunshine Can’t think of a good custom title

    Kalmar, Sweden
    Birds of Paradise Farm

    A terrific song and it's a shame it was hidden away as a B-side. But then again, as @James Cunningham says above, on what album would this song have fit? I'll give it an 3.5/5 as I love the way it merrily bounces along and I love that guitar picking pattern, the Hammond solo and the brief flute appearance; very 60s! I've always heard "making love to the dinner gong" as "making love to the dinner dog" (whatever that is, but it sounds a bit perverse if you ask me!).
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021

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