FOR AN artist with a very definite, almost idiosyncratic, sound, style, and identity, Charmed Life reminds us that Neil Hannon’s influences and range are both broad and diverse.
Drawing on 1960s pop and film scores, indie, English music hall, and a tradition of Irish song that traces a line back to Percy French, Fermanagh’s finest has woven such inspirations into a cohesive whole, sprinkling it all with, at times, cynical humour, and others, a deep melancholy.
More than two decades on, ‘National Express’ and ‘Something For The Weekend’ remain as much fun as ever; ‘Norman & Nora’ is a TV drama series worth of a story encapsulated in under four minutes; while ‘At The Indie Disco’ could not be a more perfect description - musically and lyrically - of such an event.
Years of Father Ted repeats have dulled the impact of ‘Songs of Love’, but listen anew to the original and marvel at the complex, yet nuanced, arrangement and the brilliance of the melody. The rush of ‘Generation Sex’, in its themes of mysoginy and capitalism, sound even more relevant now; while ‘Sunrise’, written in the glow of post-Belfast Agreement optimism has become unbearably poignant as the Tories pursue a hard Brexit, regardless of its impact on the North.
The inspired ‘How Can You Leave Me On My Own’, effortlessly veering between r’n’b and music hall forms is an hilarious, and yet unsettlingly accurate portrayal of men without the guiding influence of a good woman.
Alas no ‘My Lovely Horse’, but a more serious omission by far is ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’. Such small caveats aside, Charmed Life is a welcome reminder of just what a witty, sophisticated, and elegant pop songwriter and performer Neil Hannon is.