Here’s the last in the series of Albums I have been obsessed with. Any suggestions for what series I should do next? Having recently discovered Captain Beefheart, I could do a series on “Albums that I really should have heard by now”…
I digress. I first came across Promenade by the Divine Comedy (Setanta), aka Neil Hannon, just before going to university. In a state of poverty (and living fifteen miles from the nearest record shop) my formative years were spent listening to tapes and later CDs that I borrowed from the local library.
Luckily, the library was quite cool, allowing me to discover Spiritualised, Radiohead and Pavement, among others. During one my sorties, I picked up a copy of Promenade, purely because I liked the cover. This was pretty much standard modus operandi when it came to choosing albums, and one that usually served me well.
It was a fortuitous choice. From the opening bars of Bath – a precise, Reich-esque chamber ensemble building to a gloriously silly vocal – I was hooked. I remember dragging my friends (and anyone else who would listen) into my uni room to listen to the orchestral pop and pomp of it all.
What set Promenade apart for me was the complete lack of the usual pop band accoutrements – electric guitars and the like – in what is a perfectly-formed pop album. Yes, I know Hannon’s work can tend towards being smug and cheesy, with overwrought lyrics and pompous arrangements, but Promenade is just on the right side.
Where else would you find a song about fish nestled next to a recitation of great names from literature? Or an exposition on French cinema alongside a whirling trip on a Ferris wheel?
My favourite track on the album – and one I’ve listened to again and again without tiring of it – is The Summerhouse. It’s a gorgeous song, full of the yearning for the sepia-tinted times of a long-gone childhood, and the first flush of love before you even knew what it meant. Wonderful.
Couldn’t find the album version on Youtube, so here’s an mp3: