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Absent Friends- CD review (spoilers)

 
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Ozymandias



Joined: 31 Dec 2003
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 8:32 pm    Post subject: Absent Friends- CD review (spoilers) Reply with quote

Managed to acquire a copy of the promo CD, and here are some first, fleeting impressions:

- Orchestras have returned with a vengeance. Apart from Fin, and indeed perhaps even including most songs on that, it's hard to think of such a deliberately over-orchestrated Divine Comedy album. It will be simply stunning live. (Palladium, April 26th, oh God yes!) It's also slightly overwhelming listening; every single song (with the interesting exception of My Imaginary Friend) appears to be pitched at the level of Someone, The Dogs and The Horses, The Certainty of Chance, etc, etc...

- The lyrics are a fascinating mix of old-style DC (arch, detached and camp) and something quite different; gone is the navel-gazing of Regeneration, and instead there's a sense that Neil has now embraced being 'a contemporary musician', for the little that's worth.

- Scott Walker is THE major influence here, far more than ever before. Those intrigued by the nods to Radiohead on Regeneration will be disappointed. (Although Laika's Theme bears the hallmarks of Godrich, here 'relegated' to mixing duties.)

- Harpsichords make a welcome reappearance. It's been too long.

- It's not going to sell many copies. It also doesn't feature a single obvious further single apart from, perhaps, Absent Friends. But it's a really interesting, welcome indication that Neil's not chasing the bottom dollar, and that he's not willing to compromise pointlessly in order to satisfy nobody. Time, and repeated listenings, are going to tell where it stands in the DC canon.

Any more comments?
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Jason



Joined: 21 Nov 2002
Posts: 225
Location: new york

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

is there any chance u can make an mp3 of just 1 song.. like billy bird etc.. so i can see how it compares to the album i downloaded some time ago.. cuz that one seemed mono..but ya never know... and i agree with most of that...scott walker indeed.
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blue circles



Joined: 21 Nov 2002
Posts: 1809

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I've heard makes me want to blub.
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Jason



Joined: 21 Nov 2002
Posts: 225
Location: new york

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ok i just downmloaded a genuine stereo version of absent freinds on soulseek.....big differnec.e.. something more to look forward to now..besides the bsides
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drykid



Joined: 16 Dec 2003
Posts: 2217
Location: On the boundary

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 12:11 am    Post subject: Re: Absent Friends- CD review (spoilers) Reply with quote

Ozymandias wrote:
Any more comments?


Well, I can't comment on the album myself, since all I've heard is the single. But you make the album sound just how I hoped it might (both lyrically and musically), which makes me look forward to it even more now Smile
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Absolute Power
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I still think Sticks and Stones is an amazing track, although I appear to be alone in that opinion. It wouldn't be out of place on A Short Album About Love.

I think there is a bit of Regeneration in there too, Wreck of the Beautful in particular, and Leaving Today.

Single wise, I think Happy Goth is the only other candidate other than of course Come Home Billy Bird. If I had to pick a third, then I'd pick Stick and Stones. No really I would. Hell they released Certainty of Chance as a single once and it's no less commercially appealing.

The whole album is rather splendid, although I still have reservations about Charmed Life and Absent Friends.
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Benny J



Joined: 21 Nov 2002
Posts: 3310

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 1:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that My Imaginery Friend has single possibilities.

And am I the only one who sees Motorway To Damascus in The Wreck Of The Beautiful?
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Absolute Power
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 1:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good point! Hadn't noticed that before.

You're right about My Imaginary Friend. Never even considered it before. How blind (or deaf) I must be.
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L



Joined: 30 Nov 2002
Posts: 394
Location: Chatelet, Belgium

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolute Power wrote:
I still think Sticks and Stones is an amazing track, although I appear to be alone in that opinion. It wouldn't be out of place on A Short Album About Love.

I think there is a bit of Regeneration in there too, Wreck of the Beautful in particular, and Leaving Today.

Single wise, I think Happy Goth is the only other candidate other than of course Come Home Billy Bird. If I had to pick a third, then I'd pick Stick and Stones. No really I would. Hell they released Certainty of Chance as a single once and it's no less commercially appealing.

The whole album is rather splendid, although I still have reservations about Charmed Life and Absent Friends.


Same here (except for the last bit, I like Charmed Life a lot)
But yes S & S is great and it would be my choice for a 3rd single if there ever was one. Happy Goth of course is an obvious second single.
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ojlim



Joined: 25 Feb 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

God, it's great to see Neil ditched the Radiohead thing. Regeneration was so poor, I didn't know if I was supposed to cry with shame or not.

The album is TOTAL Scott Walker, probably the most Scott Walker of all Divine Comedy albums. No bad thing; heck as long as the music is good, then it's fine. Luckily, most of it sounds great. I don't think the arrangements are over-bearing in the way Casanova through to Fin De Siecle starting becoming more and more OTT for each release; here they are tasteful, thoughtful towards the songs.

No, it's not going to sell anything, but Promenade didn't sell s**t and that still is my favourite DC album and one of my favourite albums full stop. Even after all these years.

Speaking of which, Our Mutual Friend could have slotted in perfectly into Promenade. So I don't know if I like it because of that, or if it's simply a good song that could've been on Promenade. I love the lyrics on that one though; total Neil observation piece with a nice little twist at the end.
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Mastermind



Joined: 20 Jan 2003
Posts: 117

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 5:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ojlim wrote:
God, it's great to see Neil ditched the Radiohead thing. Regeneration was so poor, I didn't know if I was supposed to cry with shame or not.


So you came crawling back then?

Regeneration is still my joint fave album.
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brindisi



Joined: 25 Feb 2004
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 5:53 am    Post subject: Re: Absent Friends- CD review (spoilers) Reply with quote

Ozymandias wrote:
Managed to acquire a copy of the promo CD, and here are some first, fleeting impressions:

- Orchestras have returned with a vengeance. Apart from Fin, and indeed perhaps even including most songs on that, it's hard to think of such a deliberately over-orchestrated Divine Comedy album. It will be simply stunning live. (Palladium, April 26th, oh God yes!) It's also slightly overwhelming listening; every single song (with the interesting exception of My Imaginary Friend) appears to be pitched at the level of Someone, The Dogs and The Horses, The Certainty of Chance, etc, etc...

- The lyrics are a fascinating mix of old-style DC (arch, detached and camp) and something quite different; gone is the navel-gazing of Regeneration, and instead there's a sense that Neil has now embraced being 'a contemporary musician', for the little that's worth.

- Scott Walker is THE major influence here, far more than ever before. Those intrigued by the nods to Radiohead on Regeneration will be disappointed. (Although Laika's Theme bears the hallmarks of Godrich, here 'relegated' to mixing duties.)

- Harpsichords make a welcome reappearance. It's been too long.

- It's not going to sell many copies. It also doesn't feature a single obvious further single apart from, perhaps, Absent Friends. But it's a really interesting, welcome indication that Neil's not chasing the bottom dollar, and that he's not willing to compromise pointlessly in order to satisfy nobody. Time, and repeated listenings, are going to tell where it stands in the DC canon.

Any more comments?

I am having an absolute fit. I have read several lyrics and can only imagine what sound must go with these words. I am seeing reference to radiohead and must assume that it is a style such as that. Help me ,please. Confused How can I hear this?
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Ozymandias



Joined: 31 Dec 2003
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right chaps and chapesses, more words about each track:

Absent Friends: Oh dear me, this is good. Basically, this is the sound that I think a lot of people wish that Neil had embraced *years* ago, as it's a kind of spaghetti western meets Generation Sex tune. Really, utterly superb, and the most confident opening to a DC album since Something for the Weekend.

Sticks and Stones: It starts in a very Nymanesque fashion, the Yann Tiersen part makes it sound like something out of Amelie, and then the chorus is so orchestral and sweeping that it goes firmly into soundtrack/ASAAL territory. Another winner.

Leaving Today: I was expecting something REALLY epic here, but instead it's quite subdued, with the orchestration adding menace and texture to what's a really miserable, downbeat song. Certainly not a possible single.

Come Home Billy Bird: Essentially this album's National Express, it's a far better song, with the harpsichords and orchestration adding a richness and sincerity absence in the earlier song. Lauren Laverne on backing vocals was a genius idea.

My Imaginary Friend: This one's really like Neil's cover of The Magnetic Fields' 'The Dead Only Quickly Decay.' No orchestras on this one, but a lovely, catchy tune nonetheless.

Wreck of the Beautiful: Reminiscent of the 'non-cheerful' part of 'A Seafood Song' and 'Neptune's Daughter', with aspects of 'A Woman of the World' in the chorus, this one's going to be one of the skip-over tracks on repeated listening. But that doesn't mean it's at all bad...

Our Mutual Friend: Oh yes. Oh God yes. Sure to be a favourite with fans. It's basically Neil, an orchestra, and an insanely catchy tune. The 2-minute orchestra outro is the DC at its most lavish since 'Someone', by absolute miles. And the lyrics are brilliant as well.

The Happy Goth: Hated it live, because it always seemed twee and smug. It's miles better on album, because Neil's got the Beach Boys influence in there, with great horns and lovely backing vocals, and it almost seems sincere and lovely now!

Freedom Road: It could be on Promenade, although the orchestration is far bigger; it's lovely, stirring stuff, and the only song that seems directly influenced by Neil in the US.

Laika's Theme: Hmmm. The only song that really shows the influence of Nigel Godrich, it's also a bit, well...meandering. It does work rather well as an atmospheric piece, but it's unlikely to become a favourite.

Charmed Life: A really charming song, that seems at first to be a honky-tonk piece of rhapsody, but broadens out into a Broadway-esque epic that brings 'I'm all you need' to mind, amongst others. Charming, as the title might convey.

Verdict: Another winner for the fans, another flop for the charts. Parlophone will hopefully realise that Neil, like, say, Lloyd Cole, has a select and loyal fan base, and should concentrate on maintaining and developing that fan base. After all, he's got Coldplay and Radiohead to subsidise him!
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Ginsoakedboy



Joined: 11 Dec 2003
Posts: 42
Location: Bradford, Oop North

PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 1:50 am    Post subject: A few impressions on the album... Reply with quote

And this is in no particular order, so put this together as you will

Absent Friends- got the whole tonight we fly rhythm thing going on, but shocking lyrics. I mean, really bad. Woodbine Willy? Give me a break! Sounds like a kids song, all told.

Sticks and stones - really good. Def a single. Sounds like the Ute Lemper stuff at the start. (A good thing.)

Billy Bird - Well, it's okay...but really... you don't get Lauren Laverne in, and then get her to sing such a clumsy chorus, do you?


Charmed Life - I like this one...okay, it's a lullaby to his kid, but it's a great tune, and genuinely good lyrics too, something thats sorely missing from the rest of the album.

GSB
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Ginsoakedboy



Joined: 11 Dec 2003
Posts: 42
Location: Bradford, Oop North

PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 2:13 am    Post subject: Continued.... Reply with quote

Leaving today - Argh, this is painfully bad. Just listen to the lyrics, and tell me you don't want to kill somebody.

My Imaginary Friend - This is cute, in a twee, Belle & Sebastien kind of way. Good show on rhyming "peripatetically" tho

The Wreck Of The Beatiful - Why? Really, why?

Mutual Friend - This Is great...loved it when I heard it live. Still do. The lyric fix makes me laugh so much!

The Happy Goth - This is funny - love the "girl from Ipenema" vibe it's aquired since the original live version. But still, it's a one gag track, surely?

Freedom Road - I honestly think this is the best thing on the album. I love it, and I don 't know why. It should sound s**t, and yet Neil nails it totally. Fantastic lyrics, nice under-stated tune. Wow!

Laika's Theme - Again, why?


GSB
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Heffalump



Joined: 25 Nov 2002
Posts: 46
Location: Berlin, Germany

PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i have it on constant replay for three and a half weeks now (a regularly and legally received promo copy) and, ** christ, this is the most wonderful album that's ever been made. i know this band for almost ten years now and never has Mr. Hannon delighted me that much.
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Geordie



Joined: 21 Nov 2002
Posts: 1677
Location: The Toon

PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2004 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Found a promo copy on sale in Newcastle this morning and couldn't help myself!

It really is a brilliant album, I've listened to it 4 times through today already and love it.

Absent Friends and Sticks and Stones are my personal favourites at the moment but the album is littered with Scott Walkeresque vocals and sweeping strings.

Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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Ozymandias



Joined: 31 Dec 2003
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Mon Mar 01, 2004 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great thing about it is is that, unlike Regeneration (and perhaps Fin as well, I think in retrospect), it's not an album that you listen to, love immediately because you're listening to your expectations rather than the music, and then become gradually disillusioned; even the 2 tracks that I don't really care for here (Wreck of the Beautiful and Laika's Theme) aren't at all BAD as such, whereas songs like Dumb It Down, Eric the Gardener and- oh well, shoot me for saying it- Love What You Do always irritated me after the first couple of listens.

I think the DC album it's closest to is probably A Short Album About Love; it's got that album's sense of generosity and beauty, as well as space. Another analogy I'd make is with Radiohead's Hail to The Thief; it's as if Neil has realised that people don't want him to regress, but instead to sound like a more developed version of the band that they fell in love with ages ago.

A user's guide to soundalikes:

Absent Friends- We Came Through (Scott Walker), Tonight We Fly

Sticks and Stones- Amelie soundtrack, Still Life (Suede)

Leaving Today- Joanna (Scott)

Come Home Billy Bird- National Express, Generation Sex

My Imaginary Friend- The Dead Only Quickly Decay

Wreck of the Beautiful- Neptune's Daughter, A Seafood Song

Our Mutual Friend- If I Were You, Through A Long and Sleepless Night

The Happy Goth- Becoming More Like Alfie

Freedom Road- The Certainty of Chance, late Johnny Cash (!!)

Laika's Theme- Godrich-produced Travis (Humpty Dumpty Love Song), atmospheric space film scoring

Charmed Life- I'm All You Need, Sunrise

Comments??
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S. Baldrick



Joined: 30 Jan 2003
Posts: 56
Location: California, USA

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't posted here in ages, but thought I'd chime in with my thoughts on "Absent Friends." I've heard the album in its entirety several times now.

I definitely agree that this has the strongest Scott Walker vibe of any of his albums. This album, in my mind, is sort of a conglomeration of everything Neil's ever done...and yet, completely different, if that makes sense. It's possibly his most antiquarian effort since "Promenade," but with the production of "A Short Album About Love." Actually, it's less bombastic than either of those albums. Gah, hard to explain!

It's going to take a while for it to grow on me fully, but there are already a few tracks I'd peg as gems:

"Sticks And Stones" - brilliant song. Sinister, "Fin"-esque verses with a joyous, "Short Album"-type chorus.

"Imaginary Friend" - a bit of a "Perfect Lovesong" vibe to this one.

"Leaving Today" - at first I thought this one was too melodramatic...but after repeated listens, I think it's quite brilliant.

"Charmed Life" - this song is impeccably sweet. I don't care what anyone says.

"Wreck Of The Beautiful" is not one of my top favorites, but I feel compelled to point out that it's probably the strangest song Neil has ever put on disc! Does anyone agree with me? I've heard people claim the Radiohead vibe is gone from this album, but I personally hear it in this song.

I'd also like to point out that I was really looking forward to hearing "Our Mutual Friend," as I saw Neil live last year and that was the new song that I found most memorable. However, I have to say, I prefer the arrangement Neil played on tour to the one on the album.

On a side note...I didn't realize there was such hatred for "Regeneration." I personally love it.

Nice to be back. Look forward to hearing more thoughts re: "Absent Friends" and otherwise.
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blue circles



Joined: 21 Nov 2002
Posts: 1809

PostPosted: Sat Mar 06, 2004 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ojlim wrote:
God, it's great to see Neil ditched the Radiohead thing. Regeneration was so poor, I didn't know if I was supposed to cry with shame or not.


Huh ?
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Lazarus



Joined: 21 Nov 2002
Posts: 724
Location: Hawaii, Belgium

PostPosted: Sun Mar 07, 2004 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/atl/reviews/27022004divine.shtml
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