Fin De Siecle
By: Eric G.
Neil Hannon is The Divine Comedy, and his propensity for writing grandiose, theatrical pop is unrivaled. Hannon fuses upper-class British witticisms and smarmy wordplay with sweeping orchestral arrangements, sounding like a bizarre mix of ABC, Julian Cope, Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, and, perhaps, a more sophisticated Pulp. Hannon's voice is deep and rich, and he carries with it an air of pomposity forgiven only because of its strange familiarity. The songs on Fin De Siecle are instantly rewarding with an immediacy and charm unforgivably absent from music these days.
"Generation Sex" starts the record off on a strange note with a recurring sample of a woman espousing the keys to her sexual happiness. This track recalls The Smiths not in its execution but in its intentions. Morrissey often married his British-ness with seemingly out of place characters and themes, and Hannon accomplishes the same thing here with much success. The song has a traditional pop sensibility that Hannon threads throughout the album. His music runs the gamut of melodrama from sunny pop of the aforementioned single to the jarring jaunt of "Sweden" on to the catchy brilliance of "National Express."
Hannon is, perhaps, overly ambitious on occasion, particularly on the final two tracks, "Here Comes The Flood" and "Sunrise." The latter recounting his days growing up in Northern Ireland in a saccharine, over the top ballad, and the former featuring superfluous narration by Dexter Fletcher. But with lines like: "She doesn't know I exist/I'm gonna keep it like this/not gonna take any risks" from "Commuter Love", Hannon's charm is sure to overcome the moments when he's bitten off more than he can chew.