Promenade (The Divine Comedy album)
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|Studio album by The Divine Comedy|
|Released||March 28, 1994|
|Producer||Neil Hannon and Darren Allison|
|The Divine Comedy chronology|
Promenade is The Divine Comedy's third album. It was released in 1994 on Setanta to much critical acclaim but little commercial success. It is a concept album about two lovers who spend a day at the seaside.
The album's style is even more classical-sounding than its predecessor, Liberation. The string arrangements are reminiscent of the works of Michael Nyman, with whom The Divine Comedy would later collaborate. Neil once said that after attending one of Michael Nyman's shows he went up to the composer, handed him a copy of Promenade, and jokingly said, "You can sue me if you like." Years later Nyman said he did not remember the incident, but he said he felt more "flattered than ripped off."
Promenade, like Liberation, was recorded by Neil and co-producer Darren Allison, with the addition of String Quartet, and oboe/cor anglais courtesy of Joby Talbot, thus marking his first appearance in The Divine Comedy's history. Joby would go on to become the arranger for most of The Divine Comedy's post-Casanova work, even co-writing two Divine Comedy songs.
Promenade is even more overtly literary than Liberation. It opens with a quote from Isaac Watts' hymn "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past" and ends with a quote from John Dryden's translation of one of Horace's odes (which is also sung as the chorus of "The Booklovers"). "The Booklovers" is a list of over seventy different authors.
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Promenade can be interpreted as a concept album about two lovers who spend a day at the seaside. There are many different interpretations of the story, but it may run something like this: "Bath" is about the female character taking a bath, and "Going Downhill Fast" is about the male character bicycling over to her house. "The Booklovers" is about the two discussing their favourite authors. "A Seafood Song" is about them enjoying a meal comprising different types of fish. In "Geronimo" they get caught in the rain as they head back to his place, and they go on a Ferris wheel ride in "Don't Look Down", where the thrill of the moment causes the man to announce his atheist views. Later, in "When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe" (the title alluding to the famous World War I quote "The lights are going out all over Europe") they see a French film, and in "The Summerhouse" they reminisce about their childhood. The girl almost drowns during an evening stroll in "Neptune's Daughter", they then get drunk in "A Drinking Song", and "Ten Seconds to Midnight" is about counting down to the New Year and the anniversary of the time when they first met. Finally, in "Tonight We Fly", they transcend everyone through their ecstasy.
One recurring element in Promenade is water. Water is mentioned in one way or another in the following songs: "Bath", "A Seafood Song", "Geronimo", "The Summerhouse", "Neptune's Daughter", and "Tonight We Fly". The North Sea, itself, even plays a part in the album - producer Darren Allison made field recordings on the Northumberland Coast, which can be heard at the beginning of "Bath", and again, in "Neptunes Daughter". Another recurring element is gods from mythology. Aphrodite is mentioned in "Bath". Mercury is mentioned in "Going Downhill Fast". Neptune is in the title of "Neptune's Daughter".
References to French New Wave cinema occur in two of the songs. "When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe" alludes to François Truffaut's Jules et Jim, contains excerpts of dialogue from Jean-Luc Godard's À Bout de Souffle and contains the line "and when she asks for his ambition, Jean-Pierre replies 'My mission is to become eternal and to die'", describing a scene in À Bout de Souffle in which a novelist character played by Jean-Pierre Melville replies "devenir immortel et puis, mourir". This song also contains a reference to Éric Rohmer's Claire's Knee. "The Booklovers" contains the line "Tu connais William Faulkner?", also a quote from À Bout de Souffle.
Neil Hannon sends all of his albums to Scott Walker, of whom Neil is a very big fan. After Neil sent Scott a copy of Promenade Scott sent him a letter back stating that he particularly liked "The Booklovers".
All songs written and arranged by Neil Hannon
- "Bath" – 4:10
- "Going Downhill Fast" – 2:33
- "The Booklovers" – 5:51
- "A Seafood Song" – 3:29
- "Geronimo" – 1:53
- "Don't Look Down" – 4:48
- "When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe" – 3:29
- "The Summerhouse" – 4:15
- "Neptune's Daughter" – 4:49
- "A Drinking Song" – 4:37
- "Ten Seconds to Midnight" – 2:10
- "Tonight We Fly" – 3:01
- "Ode to the Man"– 0:15
- Natalie Box - 1st Violin
- Catherine Browning - 2nd Violin
- Jessamy Boyd - Viola on tracks 1,2,3,7,8,9, and 12
- Alan Simpson - Viola on tracks 4,5,6, and 10
- Chris Worsey - Cello
- Joby Talbot - Oboe, saxophone, and cor anglais
- Darren Allison - Drums and percussion
- Neil Hannon - Everything else
- The sample at the beginning of The Booklovers features Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 film Funny Face.
- The sample in When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe is from the 1960 film À Bout de Souffle.
- The sample in Ode to the Man features Micheál Mac Liammóir quoting John Dryden's English translation of one of Horace's odes (Imitation of Horace, book III, ode 29, vv. 65-72) in the 1963 film Tom Jones.