Divine Comedy: "Casanova"

Divine Comedy: "Casanova"

Setanta, SET CD25 (52 mins) Dial-a-track code: 1531

Neil Hannon maybe our most cultured and articulate ex pat, but his third album doesn't waste much time on lefty themes and ideas. From the opening snatch of girlie giggling which intros Something For The Weekend, it's apparent that Hannon's active imagination is sharply focused on just one thing: sex. Hannon might enunciate his words in a plummy Oxbridge accent, but his intent is altogether more vulgar, and Casanova emerges as an entertaining and enlightening thesis on low behaviour in high places. In And Out In Paris And London conjures up a bawdy scene far removed from your typical Orwellian abstinence, while Charge manages to turn an everyday heavy petting session into a military incursion of Light Brigade proportions. If Songs Of Love sounds vaguely familiar, it should: it's the Hannon composed theme tune for the hit comedy series, Father Ted. The words should ring uncomfortably familiar too, since they make public the secretive sexual and poetic compulsions of schoolboys everywhere.

Once again, Hannon's superb arrangements avoid the straight rockin' road, striking out instead on a more interesting path, crazy paved with echoes of easy listening, Sixties film themes and madcap Bonzo Dog Band humour. Becoming More Like Alfie is a paean to the archetypal Caine persona, while Middle Clash Heroes treads similar ground to The High Llamas, using old fashioned musical styles to lampoon modern mores. An erudite effort from our learned friend, M'Lud.


Shed Seven: "A Maximum High" Polydor, 531039-2 (51 mins)

Dial a track code: 1641

Well, well, looks like Britpop's Second Division is showing some Premier League potential these days. First we had The Bluetones performing well in the air with Expecting To Fly, and now we have Shed Seven hitting top form with A Maximum High. Rick Witter's lads might lack the headline-grabbing notoriety of an Oasis or a Pulp, but they have enough flair to produce songs which stick around long after the reporters have packed up their notebooks and gone off to find another quotable clown. The Top Twenty hit, Getting Better, sets the tone of optimism, and Where Have You Been Tonight?, Falling From The Sky and Parallel Lines try admirably to make an impact which will last well beyond the next 15 minutes. Shed Seven are not gonna be satisfied with bronze, and A Maximum High is a bright, brash bid for the coveted gold.

Various Artists: "Pride & Passion: 40 Contemporary Celtic Classics"

Dino, DINCD121 (153 mins) Dial A Track Code: 1751

In the never ending search for new ways to repackage old songs, marketeers are coming up with ever more imaginative excuses to sell us - back some of pop music's secondhand Junk. By flying the rather loosely flapping "Celtic" banner, Dino have made a somewhat tenuous connection between such disparate artists as Thin Lizzy, Sharon Shannon, Edwyn Collins and The Frank & Walters, whose only common link is that none of them comes from England or Wales.

In reality, Pride & Passion is merely a hotch potch of popular songs from the past three decades, few of which seem to convey much many of the qualities the title infers. While bands like The Waterboys, Hothouse Flowers, Big Country and The Proclaimers seem to share a common cultural thread, The Undertones don't fit this particular cloth, while the likes of Stiltskin would have been better suited to a compilation of great jeans themes. You might as well just call this A Few Well Known Songs By Various Non Americans and cut the high and mighty heritage crap.

Various Artists: "The Best Punk Album In The World... Ever! Vol 2" Virgin, 7243 8 41537 2 4 (156 mins)

Dial-a-track code: 1861

And there was me thinking that the last Best Punk Album In The World . . . Ever! was the best punk album in the world ever. How wrong could I be? The great thing about this second volume is that Virgin used up all the more obvious choices for their first punk compilation, so this one feat tires a few lesser known classics of the era such as Wire's Outdoor Miner, X Ray Spex's The Day The World Turned Day Glo and The Dead Boys' Sonic Reducer.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist