The Divine Comedy



NORTHERN Ireland's Neil Hannon's portfolio career musical career now embraces writing operas as well as movie soundtracks and television theme tunes, and making guest appearances at Promenade concerts at the Royal Albert Hall – allegedly drafted in for the BBC's Bowie orchestrations when another booked guest demonstrated a lack of the required musical literacy. In the pop sphere he continues to trade, sporadically, under the name of a 14th century Italian verse epic, and come across as a Noel Coward de nos jours, with a cleverness you either love or hate.

His first album in six years is billed as about love, longing and imperial ambition, and it is the most personal songs, clearly directed to second wife Cathy Davey, daughter of Irish composer (of movie soundtracks amongst other work) Shaun, which are among the most successful and, perhaps, surprising here. She also contributes vocally to one of the most Coward-esque, the rather sweet Funny Peculiar.

Elsewhere he sings about Napoleon Bonaparte and Catherine the Great, and – most wittily – joining the Foreign Legion. That song's wordplay and flirtatious relationship with amnesia is worth the price of admission alone, and could really only have come from his pen.

Keith Bruce

Neil Hannon speaks to Teddy Jamieson in Monday's Herald.