The tenth Divine Comedy album is one of Neil Hannon's best. Following the enjoyable but slightly uneven 'Victory for the Comic Muse', this is a consistently brilliant collection of beautifully written, superbly arranged pop songs and ballads.
The title of The Divine Comedy's tenth album suggests that Neil Hannon was perhaps expecting, at one point, the dubious honour of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bob Geldof, Bruce Forsyth and Alan Sugar. Then again, the Derry-born musician's sense of humour has always been of the quirky variety, something that has always busted through the seams of any musical endeavour he's partaken in.
But these songs in particular are really in a class of their own; whether it's down to Hannon's scoring work on the upcoming 'Swallows & Amazons' musical, his foray into cricket-pop with The Duckworth Lewis Method (although most of this album was written before that project), or his various contributions to other bands, the songwriter's versatility and ability to adapt to different styles is as always, hugely impressive.
Melancholic, genuinely emotive ballads ('Down in the Street Below', 'When a Man Cries') take their place astride the plump little pop tunes that the 39-year-old has always excelled at ('Neapolitan Girl', 'At the Indie Disco'), but there's a streak of startling lyrical optimism running through these songs, too. 'Have You Ever Been in Love' and 'I Like' are unabashed paeans to full hearts, 'Can You Stand On One Leg' is a silly, sunny song tailor-written for kids, while 'Island Life' is a dreamy, swoonsome standout, his hearty thrum supplemented beautifully by partner Cathy Davey's blithe backing vocals. Hannon continues to prove himself as something of a unique force in an industry that continues to be largely beige, with his best album in some time. Outstanding.