Victory For The Comic Muse

Francis Jones speaks with Neil Hannon, pop's most dapper pup

After the comparative disappointment of Absent Friends and indie-rock excursion of Regenerations it is a triumphant return to form for our very own dapper dandy.

Flashing his Portora education, (why not?) this record is lyrically acute, mixing naiveté and naughtiness, the music gloriously emotive, full of yearning and imbued with defiance against life’s irredeemable disappointments. As such Victory For The Comic Muse is a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek and absurdly fitting title.

‘Well I hope the album title is a self-fulfilling prophecy, though I can’t force the public to like it. However, I think that if the general public get to hear it then they’ll buy it, but that’s the 64 million dollar question, if that’s the right amount?’

Whilst it may be difficult to envisage the songs on this album becoming staples of drivetime playlists there is no doubting that this record will thrill long-time Divine Comedy devotees and fans of earlier albums such as Liberation and Promenade. Hannon himself seems satisfied with the results

‘To me this album is quite a departure from the last one and that was a departure from the one before that. Which was in itself a departure from the one before that, I suppose I just make too many albums? But, certainly I think this is a better record than those in the 90s, all told, but that’s in terms of technicalities that no-one’s really interested in.'

On songs such as ‘Mother Dear’ and ‘Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World’ Hannon is being more emotionally honest and vulnerable than ever before. Just listen to the sumptuous ‘A Lady Of A Certain Age’, ostensibly a story of fame and wealth it is a modern fable, of being born into paradise and then ejected from it. There is no hiding of sentiment behind bluster or clever wordplay.

‘In my twenties I didn’t have an awful lot of experience to draw upon and I suppose I was a little bit vague and tended to bluff a lot. As I got older I decided that I should be more direct and confront my emotions.’

For a brief time in the '90s Hannon was identified with the lumpen Britpop proletariat, thankfully his regal pop saw him outlast that particular, fleetingly hip scene.

‘I saw it happen to a lot of other bands, that they went down with that scene. But, it’s the same with other scenes that have come and gone, if you’re too of that scene then you tend to disappear with the scene.’

Thank the Lord that our son of a preacher man escaped the fate of the good ship Britpop and remains as vital and as busy a musical force as ever,

‘Touring and some more singles. That’s the way things are looking for the moment. This album is chock full of singles, so I hope we can put out a few though people don’t tend to release so many singles anymore, because if radio like one then they’ll just play it for ever.

However, it would be nice to give people a fuller picture of what’s going on with the record. We’re gradually putting together the tours and we’ll be doing all of Europe along with Oxegen and all those summer festivals. But, definitely, we’ll be doing Belfast or certainly Northern dates in the autumn.'