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Absent Friends - a couple of reviews (long-ish)

 
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sponge monkey



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:28 pm    Post subject: Absent Friends - a couple of reviews (long-ish) Reply with quote

Thought these might be of interest to those who haven't seen them. The first one's a glowing recommendation from last Saturdays' 'Eye' supplement in The Times (UK edition).

The second one's a decent enough review in this month's 'Uncut', notable, I thought, because there are some very, very interesting points being made:

Having tired of the accusation that he was too arch for his own good, Neil Hannon abandoned the charming orchestral flourishes of Casanova and Fin de Siecle in favour of generic indie pop on the Divine Comedy's previous album Regeneration. The moral? There is a lot more to sincerity than not having violins on your record.

And here's the proof. This time, we get sincerity, violins and some of Hannon's best tunes. Inspired by the birth of his first child, Leaving Home (sic) and Charmed Life could have been intolerably soppy. But with joy comes the attendant anxiety at what fortune might have had in store: 'This life', sings Hannon, 'is like being afloat/On a raging sea/In a little rowing boat'.

Much of Absent Friends comes on like a wiser brother to the cocksure chamber pop of 1992's Liberation. Our Mutual Friend shows that Hannon has become a magnificently empathetic observer, while Come Home Billy Bird is the moving account of a father struggling to get home in time for his son's football match; Hannon simply could not have written a song such as this a decade ago. No less remarkable is the progress of Joby Talbot, whose soaring arrangements ensure that Hannon is never embarrassed by his attempts to emulate Jacques Brel and Scott Walker. In fact, Absent Friends is a glorious vindication of that audacity.

(five - count 'em five - stars)


(This next one appears as a 'feature' review - longer than the normal run of copy and with a quarter page photo)

Hommage frais - Neil Hannon rediscovers his inner fop

A decade ago, Neil Hannon engineered a reputation for himself as a bookish young fogey on the periphery of Britpop. An awkward dandy whose self-consciousness heightened his appeal, it also helped that much of his music - romantic orchestral fantasias, mainly - measured up to his lofty pretensions. By 1998's Fin de Siecle, however, Hannon's archness had become overbearing. And, in an oddly successful attempt to have hit singles, his whimsical persona had been purposefully blown up into self-parody. Predictably troubled by all this, Hannon's 2001 major label debut, Regeneration, found him dressed down, posing as one of the guys in the band and, to all intents and purposes, making a mediocre Radiohead album.

The florid, expansive Divine Comedy, for all its faults, seemed to have been lost to posterity. Until, that is, Hannon dumped his prosaic bandmates, dusted down his corduroy suit and made Absent Friends. The best record he's made since 1996's Casanova, it's one of those rare occasions when an artist retraces their steps and successfully locates what made them interesting in the first place. In Hannon's case, this comprises a pathologically diligent study of the first four Scott Walker solo LPs, with particular attention to the glassy, entrancing 'Angels of Ashes' on Scott 4.

As he candidly admits, lavish homage and a fruity baritone suit him better than orthodox rock confessionals. So when he adopts the persona of a fleeing husband on the suitably ornate, lachrymose 'Leaving Today', his performance is more convincing than anything more overtly personal on Regeneration. For the most part, these remain sombre and reflective songs, but ones in which Hannon assumes various dispossessed and alienated character roles to address his life on the road, away from family and without a band. Such critical distancing clearly improves his work - though a tender song to his daughter, 'Charmed Life', is an audaciously contented way to end an album. Less appealingly, the quirks and ostentatious literary references that marked his early work return, too. What was once amusing now sounds gauche coming from a man in his thirties.

But this is a minor distraction. 'Our Mutual Friend' is at once chatty and profound. A study of drunken sex and betrayal, it shows Hannon has recaptured his greatest trick: the elevation of brief, messy affairs into bombastic theatrical passions. When he takes his daughter for a walk, you suspect Hannon hears Morricone scoring his every footstep. We should be grateful that, once again, he is no longer ashamed by such grandiloquence.

(three stars)

(Next to it is a sidebar with a short interview. NH does well do deflect some very catty and pithy questions)

Q&A - The Divine Comedian on going it alone again
UNCUT: Why did you sack the band and go solo again?

HANNON: [On Regeneration] I'd involved the band more and more in the creative process. I loved the album, but I felt bizarrely apart from the whole thing. It turns out I am as much of a control freak as people have told me.

The band looked and sounded pretty generic and mundane.
It was a huge reaction to being known as the cravatted fop. But I'm over it now, and it was such a pleasure to put a suit on again.

You're much better at being Scott Walker than you were at being Thom Yorke.
Obviously, I have to deny both. But you're right. On the last record I was trying to sing like myself, be as natural as possible. But it didn't sound like me. The irony is I sound more like me when I'm trying to sing like Scott. The whole '60s orchestrated balladeer vibe is how I best put across my ideas, and I'm happy to just do it.


Last edited by sponge monkey on Wed Apr 07, 2004 10:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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airboy paul



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i was disappointed with the uncut review. or at least the rating. would have expected a four or five from them, tut tut.
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sponge monkey



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

airboy paul wrote:
i was disappointed with the uncut review. or at least the rating. would have expected a four or five from them, tut tut.


Given that the review seemed to be saying very positive things about the album, I was expecting to see more than three at the end of it as well.
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airboy paul



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yeah, same here. maybe he had just had it in his mind that it was the divine comedy, and either compared it to previous albums or something else. i reckon if it was an album by some new and unheard of band/artist they would have probably rated it higher. don't know why. and i've no evidence, but it's obvo true Very Happy
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Ben_W



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Both seem good reviews in my opinion. Out of interest, what would people here give it? I'd give it 4/5.
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cjmacs



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dont know, still haven't heard it yet*... Sad

*except for the single and b-sides
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sponge monkey



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ben_W wrote:
Both seem good reviews in my opinion. Out of interest, what would people here give it? I'd give it 4/5.


Yeah, likewise. I'm playing it a lot at the moment but I'm wondering if after a while - when I'm totally familiar with it - whether anything's going to grate about it.
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Jason



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

im surprised neail didnt disagree with that uncut interviewer
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Jennifer



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for putting them up Sponge
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Universal*



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Spongeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Smile
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Witch



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers, Sponge!
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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sponge monkey



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cassilda wrote:
(BTW: Did you get my PM about that THING that remains unspoken?)


Sorry Cassilda - yes I did but I'm traditionally crap at replying to pms! 'Tribute CD 2' kind of slipped off the radar because I thought there was a lack of interest, which was a shame seeing as how four or five people other people actually went and did something.

If it's worth resurrecting, I might be persuaded to kick start it again...
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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luvly horse



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ive nagged him already! Very Happy
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Mr Nude



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's another example of a generally positive review text being accompanied by a mediocre score. Idiots.

And I'd give Absent Friends 5/5!
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S. Baldrick



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ugh. What is everyone's problem with "Fin De Siecle" and "Regeneration"? All these reviews tend to look the same.

I just don't get it.
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Come Home Billy Bob



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2004 1:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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If...



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2004 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

S. Baldrick wrote:
Ugh. What is everyone's problem with "Fin De Siecle" and "Regeneration"?


Fin is great, but many think that it's siply not happy enough.

Regen is a bit poo. Uncut had it right about that bit...
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alan!



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2004 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NO CONTINUITY

uncut gave regeneration five stars and called it 'heavenly'. they should check what they say!!
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