Personnel: Neil Hannon (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, keyboards); John Ilewelyn Evans (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Celine Saout, Camilla Pay (harp); Lucy Wilkins, Gillon Cameron, Rick Koster, Andrew Haveron, Sonia Slany, Calina de la Mare (violin); Reiad Chibah (viola); Ian Burdge, Chris Worsey (cello); Elizabeth Marshall (flute); Ian Watson (accordion); Ilid Jones (oboe); Charlotte Glasson (tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone); Daniel Newell (trumpet); Matthew Gunner (French horn); Andrew Skeet (piano, harpsichord); Simon Little (double bass, electric bass); Dougie Payne (electric bass); Tim Weller (drums); Rob Farrer (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Guy Massey.
Recording information: R.A.K.
Director: Andrew Skeet.
Photographers: Adrian Green ; Tom Sheehan .
Arrangers: Andrew Skeet; Neil Hannon.
To say that any Divine Comedy album feels calculated is somewhat pointless, given that Neil Hannon's cheeky musical alter ego is a nostalgic figure caught in a 1930s time warp to begin with. It's all about affection, as it were. And Victory for the Comic Muse is almost mathematical in its calculation: open with a jaunty number to get the audience excited; slow it down for four consecutive reflective ballads to suggest maturity; split the album in half with a piano instrumental like an old movie intermission; inject some life into the proceedings with four sprightly, comic selections; and close with a tearjerker. Such a structure means the album feels like two separate entities, almost like two EP collections jammed together representing two distinctly different phases of Hannon's career. The ELO-like opener, "To Die a Virgin," seems to be another stab at "Generation Sex" territory, right down to its Fellini-esque opening samples. The slower numbers that follow are pleasant enough, with some alternately witty and touching lyrics. The second half starts with some welcome drive, as Hannon tackles the Associates song "Party Fears Two" with whimsical aplomb. "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World" presents the early Hannon eye twinkle and is reminiscent of previous creations like "Bernice Bobs Her Hair." Here Hannon suggests he needs a TV investigation just to understand his girlfriend. Victory for the Comic Muse has funny moments, sad asides, and some of the now standard Nyman minimalist moments, although there are stronger entries in the Divine Comedy's overall discography. ~ Tim DiGravina