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The Divine Comedy - Office Politics (Album Review)

Wednesday, 12 June 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Now on their 12th album, Neil Hannon’s Divine Comedy are proven musical survivors: a chamber pop act who flourished during Britpop’s heyday while maintaining their own distinctive sound despite a dizzyingly eclectic creative output.

The new LP, ‘Office Politics’, continues to meld a panoply of styles, while being given cohesion by Hannon’s signature tone of voice. It’s a record that carries off the classic Divine Comedy sound with aplomb, but which is a little lacking when it comes to killer melodies and emotional colour.

Some of this is covered up with the formal innovations in the songwriting. Though not a directly programmed concept album, ‘Office Politics’ does mainly deal with the world of its title.

Songs like Absolutely Obsolete and Psychological Evaluation deal with professional redundancy and profiling handsomely, while the title track paints a picture of the whole wretched corporate world: halfway between Reynholm Industries and Wernham Hogg.  

Comedy has always been at the centre of Hannon’s writing, and this is also at play on the excellent Phillip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company—a track that Hannon describes as the “theme tune to a sitcom based on the early lives of Philip Glass and Steve Reich in New York in the ‘60s.”

The music joyously homages those composers’ work, and the elevated subject matter never feels too showy—Hannon is too skilful a songwriter to allow his literacy to undermine the songs. That said, there is a certain smugness here. The band's genre itself is a tricky one and this is an album of intellectual easy-listening akin to Randy Newman or Barbra Streisand.

It’s middlebrow music written to entertain and to provoke titters. There’s nothing wrong with that, but Hannon is capable of true emotional alchemy such as Songs of Love and Lucy. 'Office Politics'—for all its intelligence—feels a bit comfortable, middle-aged and low stakes.

The Divine Comedy Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun October 06 2019 - DUBLIN Bord Gais Energy Theatre
Mon October 07 2019 - BELFAST Ulster Hall
Tue October 08 2019 - CORK Cork Opera House
Thu October 10 2019 - GLASGOW Old Fruit Market
Fri October 11 2019 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Sat October 12 2019 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Mon October 14 2019 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue October 15 2019 - LEEDS Leeds Beckett Student Union
Wed October 16 2019 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome
Thu October 17 2019 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Fri October 18 2019 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall

Click here to compare & buy The Divine Comedy Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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