Soundcheck: Set 05
The Divine Comedy
Bang Goes the Knighthood (2010)
*I Proud To Recommended!!!*
"Can you write a silly song? It's harder than you think," sings Neil Hannon on Can You Stand Upon One Leg? It's a pertinent question, and one loaded with knowingness. Even people who know Dante might focus more on the comedy than the divine in Hannon's music. There lies a dichotomy at the midst of his work; he's defined by his role as a Wildean wit, but his best work comes in his Songs of Loves, not his National Expresses. That continues on his 10th LP where the serious (Down in the Street Below) and the angry (Complete Banker) outshine the whimsy of Assume the Perpendicular and The Art of Conversation, odes to day tripping and chatting respectively.
Savour this album packshot for a moment, if you will. It's a bit brilliant, don't you agree?
Yes, Neil Hannon is back. Following his foray into matters cricketing with last year's The Duckworth Lewis Method, The Divine Comedy returns with a (count them) 10th studio album, called Bang Goes The Knighthood.
The cover, just to recap, features Neil, in a bath, with a dog, a bowler hat, a bottle of champagne and a pipe. And a good many bubbles. This can only be good.
The album will be released by Neil’s own label Divine Comedy Records on 31st May and shall sport the following tracks:1. Down In The Street Below
2. The Complete Banker
3. Neapolitan Girl
4. Bang Goes The Knighthood
5. At The Indie Disco
6. Have You Ever Been In Love
7. Assume the Perpendicular
8. The Lost Art of Conversation
9. Island Life
10. When A Man Cries
11. Can You Stand Upon One Leg
12. I Like
Critics of The Divine Comedy’s novelty-song tendencies will find ammunition on Bang Goes the Knighthood: the pastiche 1990s jangle of “At the Indie Disco” say, or the falsetto note that Neil Hannon holds for 28 seconds at the end of the insufferably jaunty “Can You Stand Upon One Leg”.
How has Hannon kept his shtick as Britpop’s Noël Coward going for 10 albums? The answer comes with the charm and light he also brings to song-writing, as with the sweet calypso-pop of “Island Life” and the winning orchestral swing of “Have You Ever Been in Love”.
Flashbacks by Leeds' The Lodger was recorded in Autumn 2009 onto tape at Hall Place Studios, Leeds by local genius and sociable recluse Richard Formby who had just finished Wild Beasts critically-acclaimed "Two Dancers" and back in the day played guitar on "Recurring" by Spacemen 3. Richard kept Ben Siddall (vocals, guitar) fed throughout with Ennio Morricone compilations and obscure Bryan McLean LPs while Joe Margetts (bass) and Bruce Renshaw (drums) read old copies of Uncut and played with the vintage analogue toys. Meanwhile Ben began to suffer from Alice in Wonderland syndrome...
Ben explains: "We'd had a couple of albums out (Grown-Ups and Life Is Sweet) and the first is what you've been doing most of your life, the second is trying to better the first one without alienating anyone who liked the first one, and if you're still ploughing away as a band long enough to make a third it tends to be the one where you cease to have any expectations and just try different things out and dare I say, progress. Without putting on wizard hats and rollerskates."
The new album continues the lyrical themes that informed the first two albums, including love, loss of innocence and memories of adolescence, fused with the musical trademarks of upbeat melodies, jangly jazz chords, bouncing basslines tied to energetic drums, but with the addition of new textures and a more straightforward approach to recording, as Ben recalls: "I'd had conversations with many friends about the pros and cons of editing the heck out of recordings to clear the mistakes that inept musicians make and computer trickery in general and I decided to adopt an approach where everything had to be real. Real strings and horns, untuned vocals etc. Trying to keep the spontaneity and any accidents as I knew we had limited time too being a budget-free band."
All he had to do now was get down to the small matter of actually writing some new songs. "Every time I was in my girlfriend's car driving somewhere we kept listening to the magnificent first Left Banke album and I started getting a bit fixated with the idea of doing something with orchestral instruments and actually trying to dot it all out on manuscript myself. Not a baroque-pop soundalike necessarily but something that embraced classical music within pop. A challenge."
Thankfully there was now an idea of what direction he was going in, so Ben locked himself in his bedroom with no bread and water, some instruments and a moleskine music manuscript book. "I fancied trying to make the music more complex and the arrangements more dynamic and the logical thing to do was to bring in some other musicians to reach the parts that Ben, Joe and Bruce cannot alone. We'd used our friend Emil on trumpet for the previous EP we put out in 2009 and had used another friend Sarah on backing vocals as well. I scouted around and asked for several favours and managed to recruit two saxes, a trumpet, violin and cello and another backing singer and Bruce got hold of some timpani drums to add to his kit. I could now think on a bigger scale and begin to write."
With Mr. Formby's firm hand on the tiller all went according to plan and the result is Flashbacks. A bold step forward from 2008s well-received Life Is Sweet, this excellent album is simply a must-hear for fans of smart, soulful guitar pop. Touching on crucial references like The Jam, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, The Lodger have created something at once familiar and totally new. Fueled by Ben's songwriting vision and the band's creative energy, Flashbacks is an ambitious addition to the classic pop canon.
Favorite tracks? Ben: "I like The Back Of My Mind a lot because it was a totally new approach for me, to layer up track upon track of feedback and repetitive guitar drones. And Flashbacks because the orchestral bits were how I wanted them to sound when I was scoring it all out. I love the baritone saxophone solo at the end as it was spontaneous and created by improvising which is something I've never done before, passing my control of it all over to someone else and leaving it to chance. Lyrically that's close to home too that one. Running Back Home To You is a nice end to it all. It fades and we hear all the string and horn players in isolation and it brings a smile to my chops."
The release of the first Wild Nothing full length is finally upon us. How perfect. The album is coming out just in time for summer.
‘Gemini’ starts off on a good note, beginning with the song ‘Live in Dreams’. It welcomes you at the door and beckons you to come in for more, and chances are you’re going to find it hard to resist. Jack Tatum tells us right away that “Our lips won’t last forever,” and that’s exactly why he wants to live in dreams. This way, if you’re living in dreams, you can’t die. This song is bursting at the seams with hovering, gorgeous sound effects. As you listen to the album you’ll pick up on all the subtle effects and sounds that are thrown into the mix, but you have to listen carefully! The following track ‘Summer Holiday’ is one that many of us have probably already heard, but in no way is that a bad thing. Up next on the album would be the totally blissed out track ‘Drifter’, with it’s heavenly sound effects and the ability to bring you to that special paradise you could only reach in your dreams. This is the type of song where you lose all train of thought while you become completely immersed in the sounds – like I said earlier, once you’re stuck in it, it’s difficult to get back out.
Skipping ahead to the halfway point of the album brings us to the song ‘Bored Games’. Lots of quick and little intricate sounds dominate this song, all over top of a muffled bass line that’s sure to keep your head bobbing along to the beat. For about the last minute of the track, Tatum delivers a laid-back guitar solo as the song comes to an end and slowly fades out. Next up would be the other somewhat familiar track on the album, ‘Confirmation’. Just like the songs on the 7″ records, this track has been floating around on the web for awhile now, but it did not come on either of the 7 inches. Moving right along to another highlight from the album, ‘Chinatown’. ‘Chinatown’ is drenched in more heavenly, spaced out sound effects that are present throughout the entire song, while Tatum’s voice continues to saturate everything even more, giving this track (and most of these other tracks) a real sense of longing. Second to last on the album comes the song ‘Our Composition Book’, which is a glamorous, picture-perfect pop song complete with shimmering sound effects and some excellent guitar playing by none other than Mr. Tatum himself.
In looking back on this album, I’d have to say it was quite a refreshing listen. Just about every last track sounds like it’s been dunked in a pool of spaced out, glamorous and almost ambient sound effects, which goes a long way for giving this album an otherworldly quality. If you’re still not sure what to think, then the best suggestion I’d have for you is to listen to these few songs below. After listening, it shouldn’t take long for you to decide whether or not you’re a fan of Wild Nothing.
Wild Nothing is the solo project of Virginia born Jack Tatum, whose music is the product of an unhealthy obsession with nostalgia. Equal parts teenage wasteland and inexplicable regret, his songs are the kind that could only be made by the young at heart. Unlike the current herd of one-man bedroom bands, Tatum creates complex textural environments that aim for something higher. Melodies that yearn to stay with you. Warped interpretations of Johnny Marr’s guitar work and The Cure’s careful synth arrangements. Dreamy, catchy, and intriguing. Here’s to missing your youth