Maturity tends to be the dirtiest word in pop music. Fans of good pop seldom equate it with being “redolent with the heady fragrances of adulthood,” but more likely, “old fart music for old fart people.” To boil it down farther, maturity turns good pop into bad adult contemporary. Neil Hannon, who by now is less the chief architect of The Divine Comedy and more The Divine Comedy alone, has been fashioning chamber pop underpinnings, a vocabulary most professors of English would envy and a dollop of wit into songs of love, passion, humor and, often, absurdity, all the while allowing the toe to tap and the chorus to invite sing-a-longs.
The latest, Bang Goes The Knighthood, the first album released directly from Divine Comedy Recordings, is no exception to that rule, although I have to admit this time he’s pushed the sides of the generation gap a tad farther apart. Some kid who is in love with B.O.B.’s flow, or Gaga’s meat bikini, or Katy’s (uh, er) other assets, probably won’t be amused by this album’s castigation of the banking industry (“The Complete Banker,”) or admiration of old English architecture (“Assume The Perpendicular,”) or even the name-dropping of some of my favorite Brit-Pop (“At The Indie Disco.”) That the younger crowd, the demographic that currently dictates what is and isn’t pop music, just won’t get it shouldn’t deter prospective listeners.
The album opens with “Down In The Street Below” which might well be the most gorgeous piece of music Hannon has ever been associated with. Never mind that if it came out in 1978, it would likely have been sung by Melissa Manchester instead – and kids, if I lost you on the last statement, Melissa Manchester was a singer your grandparents used to kick it to after the roller rink. Don’t make me explain what a roller rink is.
The closing track, “I Like,” is perfectly aware of our 2010 ways. Here is a sample lyric:
I Like the way you make me laugh
(make me laugh)
I Like your brain, both left and right half
(both left and right half)
I Like the songs you sing when you’re bathing
(sing when you’re bathing)
I like your dog when he’s behaving
(when he’s behaving)
I like your car, you curse like a trooper
(curse like a trooper)
During a hard reversing maneuver
So what if there is a lack of directness (or rude bluntness) to the approach? Hannon makes his rather upper crust sensibilities work fantastically well through the entire album, and frankly, if you don’t get it, you’re just not mature enough to handle Bang Goes The Knighthood. For the rest of us, this is another fine recording from a singular talent. Call me an old fart if you like, but I like.
Bang Goes The Knighthood is available from Amazon.com.