The Divine Comedy – Casanova (1996)
“It is a far far better thing that I do, than I have ever done”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
(or 137 years later)
-The Divine Comedy, the opening line of the song, In & Out of Paris & London.
Casanova may be a bit like a Dickens novel: for maximum appreciation, it should be studied.
Thanks to Professor Duncan on Community, I understand what Neil Hannon means when he sings “my slap ‘n’ tickle made her giggle” and I picked up that the “Alfie” references are a nod to the Michael Caine character.
I’m still not sure if I ‘get’ most of the rest but it doesn’t really matter: the eleven tracks are bizarre and baroque, weird and wonderful.
I’ve decided my most reliable measurement of an album is how much I look forward to repeated listens; despite its unusual nature, or more likely because of it, Casanova passed this test with flying colours.
It occasionally starts to veer off course when I feel like Hannon is “doing a voice.” Released in the mid-90s, the peak (or rather, trough) of the Eddie Vedder impersonator era, to Hannon’s credit, he fortunately doesn’t go down that road. There’s a chance all these vocal variations are contextually appropriate in that he’s doing ‘character’ voices (like I said, I could use a Coles Notes on this one) but I found them somewhat distracting.
I’ve since learned he was likely referencing the poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, when singing “cannon to the left.” If you grew up with Fresh Prince of Belair, good luck not picturing Geoffrey the Butler when listening to Charge!
Evidently, the lyrics were not the major selling point for me.
The arrangements however are, to borrow the Beck tune from the same calendar year, where’s it at.
It’s always a pleasure hearing a full orchestra sound and there’s a full page of instrumentalists credited in the cd booklet.
I was also pleased to acquire a new expression, courtesy of Theme from Casanova: “(the musicians were playing) under the baton of Jody Talbot.” And both the conductor and his ensemble did a fine job.
For maximum enjoyment, maybe brush up on your poetry & prose from the 18th/19th century.
If you’re happy when you hear terrific orchestrations, dive right in and enjoy!