Album Review: The Divine Comedy – Foreverland

Now a dozen albums into their career, The Divine Comedy have steadily carved their own unique niche into the musical landscape over the last twenty seven years. While Foreverland breaks little in the way of new ground for Neil Hannon and his bandmates, it continues to steadily build on what has already proved to be an unparalleled career making brainy, beautifully constructed, pop.

Neil Hannon remains one of the more compelling people in popular music, with his instantly recognisable and distinctly un-rock and roll vocal croon and his ability to collaborate with arrangers who have a glorious grasp of orchestral pop arrangements (just check out the beautifully executed introductions to “Napoleon Complex” and the title track). Foreverland finds Hannon continuing his tendency towards more mature material which he has pursued since 2004’s Victory for the Comic Muse. While some may yearn for some of the more playful material that was one of the hallmarks of The Divine Comedy’s output through the 90s, there’s still a distinct thread of humour still present throughout the classy chamber pop of Foreverland, particularly on numbers like “How Can You Leave Me On My Own” and “Catherine The Great”, although it is somewhat less emphasised than their earlier work. Eventually, repeated listens to Foreverland do reveal that the same element of playful humour is act, it’s just more subtle than it had been previously.

For those that may balk at Hannon to smother what they may otherwise consider to be accessible pop tunes with more strings than are strictly necessary, you have no need to worry, as the orchestrations utilised throughout Foreverland very much compliment the individual songs, rather than dominate them. “Funny Peculiar” is a good example of this, as the string section plays second fiddle to a charming duet over a pretty tune. Striking this particular balance has always been a vital element of Hannon’s genius, yet is one that he seemingly receives little credit for outside of his loyal fanbase.

Foreverland is exactly what you expect an album by The Divine Comedy, beautifully executed, intelligent and life affirming. Indeed, at this point in Neil Hannon’s career, he seems almost incapable of releasing a bad Divine Comedy album. While their singles may no longer bother the charts to the extent that they once did, their albums remain of a consistently high quality, and Foreverland will no doubt be rapturously received by longtime fans. As for those for whom this will be their first Divine Comedy album, you can pretty much guarantee it won’t be their last.

Foreverland is released on 2nd September.

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