The Divine Comedy - Absent Friends

Alex Worsnip 09/05/2004

Rating: 2/5

Having sacked the whole of his band due to financial problems, Neil Hannon comes out alone. Of course, you wouldn't know the difference by any stretch of the imagination. The Divine Comedy can be good, 'A Short Album About Love' being a case in point, but sometimes fall into either novelty pop or drab indie. Last album 'Regeneration' was fairly disappointing, but here Hannon has the confidence to orchestrate his album with lush strings, so hopes are higher. Opener and title track 'Absent Friends', a tribute to the backing band he had to get rid of, shows off his crooner-like voice to good effect, but lacks a certain edge somehow, despite referencing Oscar Wilde among others in true quirky fashion. Similarly first single 'Come Home Billy Bird' is pleasently tuneful and Lauren Laverne's vocals add to the mix, but nevertheless it just lacks true intrigue in any manner, landing firmly in the middle of the road. 'The Happy Goth' is interesting lyrically, looking at gothic culture, not a subject one would expect Hannon to take a particular interest in. The whole album is very pleasent and therein lies its problem - the melodies not quite gorgeous enough to balance out the lack of intensity. It does its job, but edges towards coffee-table status at times