Absent Friends

Absent Friends

by The Divine Comedy
     
 

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With Absent Friends, Neil Hannon returns to the glorious whimsical form of his crooning pop masterpieces. While Regeneration seemed mired in murkiness and awkwardly styled angry tunes, and some wondered if Hannon would recover from sacking his bandmates, Absent Friends sees Hannon blending the finest themes of his previous albums into a gorgeous,

Overview

With Absent Friends, Neil Hannon returns to the glorious whimsical form of his crooning pop masterpieces. While Regeneration seemed mired in murkiness and awkwardly styled angry tunes, and some wondered if Hannon would recover from sacking his bandmates, Absent Friends sees Hannon blending the finest themes of his previous albums into a gorgeous, mature tapestry of musical adventures. Longtime associate Jobi Talbot lends his usual magic and Regeneration producer Nigel Godrich stays on as mixer, allowing Hannon to expertly man the production boards himself. Album closer "Charmed Life," which marries twinkling pianos with airy orchestration and a thoroughly jolly sense of self-discovery, is perhaps most indicative of Hannon's rediscovered optimism. The song perfectly blends the light, literary style of Promenade and Liberation, but with the added crunch and bombast of Hannon's West End-leaning Casanova and Fin de Siècle. "Sticks & Stones" also traverses Casanova territory, while "Come Home Billy Bird," "Absent Friends," and "The Happy Goth" all feel like souped-up versions of Promenade and Liberation tunes. "Come Home Billy Bird" seems like the mature artist's version of "Bernice Bobs Her Hair." Where Hannon sang of schoolgirl pettiness on the latter, he moves onto the problems business travel causes family life on the former. Thus, Hannon has found a way to mix semi-autobiographical subject matter with the witty pop melodies that are his bread and butter. As always, it's Hannon's superb wit and impeccable sense of timing that allow him to mingle delicate and simultaneously revelatory turns of phrase for maximum emotional and musical effect. Who else could pull off a touching yet hilarious song like "The Happy Goth," where Hannon sings of lonely yet happy young lady "who wears Doc Martens and a heavy cross"? It is perhaps "Our Mutual Friend" that really drives home the confidence and sublime nature of Hannon's songwriting and execution at this stage of his career. Hannon had mined the orchestral strings and minimalism of composer and associate Michael Nyman in the past, but "Our Mutual Friend" is his finest stab at merging Nyman-like strings and rhythm with devastating, dramatic vocals. Singing of infidelity and the damage it causes, Hannon sounds absolutely floored. In an interview with Kitty Empire talking of his aspirations going into the album's recording, Hannon claimed he simply wanted to create a beautiful album, one that "sounds gorgeous on [his] stereo, with a roaring fire and a glass of sherry and a Labrador at [his] feet." With the thrilling and poignant Absent Friends, he has more than succeeded. It ranks high among his finest albums.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly - Marc Weingarten
Gorgeous, grotto-fabulous chamber pop. (A-)

Product Details

Release Date:
03/29/2004
Label:
Emi Import
UPC:
0724359628028
catalogNumber:
5962802
Rank:
293419

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Divine Comedy   Primary Artist
Adrian Smith   Musician
Nick Holland   Musician
Jay Craig   Musician
Joby Talbot   Piano,Conductor
Lauren Laverne   Vocals
Everton Nelson   Violin,Soloist,Musician
Alison Dodds   Musician
Yann Tiersen   Accordion
Lucy Shaw   Musician
Warren Zielinski   Musician
Ian Burdge   Musician
Crispin Robinson   Conga
Miggy Barradas   Drums
Charles Mutter   Musician
Dominic Kelly   Musician
Chris Worsey   Musician
Tim Myall   Musician
Richard George   Musician
Natalia Bonner   Musician
Giles Broadbent   Musician
Jo Cackett   Musician
Matthew Gunner   Horn,Soloist,Musician
Reiad Chibah   Musician
Vincent Greene   Musician
Darragh Morgan   Musician
John Smart   Musician
Gareth Newman   Musician
Rob Farrar   Percussion
Simon Morgan   Musician
Beverley Jones   Musician
Daniel Newell   Musician
Lucy Wakeford   Musician
James Spaddy Adams   Musician
Maya Bickell   Musician
Nick Cartledge   Flute,Soloist,Musician
Dan Cornford   Musician
Chris Fish   Musician
Simon Little   Double Bass
Jenny Sacha   Musician
Steve Hussey   Musician
Louise Hogan   Musician
Cath Haggo   Musician
Tom Rees-Roberts   Musician

Technical Credits

Guy Massey   Engineer
Joby Talbot   Arranger
Neil Hannon   Composer,Producer
Jonathan Brigden   Contributor

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