Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

If a concept album "inspired by the writings of the 18th century Venetian gambler, eroticist, and spy"—as the helpful, BBC-style voiceover of "Theme From Casanova" carefully explains—sounds like an impossibly pretentious undertaking, The Divine Comedy's Casanova does little to disprove this perception. Fortunately, bandleader Neil Hannon's latest effort is so self-consciously pretentious, so carefully overwrought that it actually achieves the peculiar sort of greatness usually reserved for bad movie themes, pre-earnestness Morrissey, and prime Roxy Music. There's a place where the over-the-top and the sublime shake hands, and this album finds that place. Like his inspiration's love affairs, Hannon's songs are more about the process of love than love itself, creating songs whose seductive scenarios have much more to do with the art of seduction than its fruits. Though Hannon most often adopts a fey, mannered baritone, "Charge" finds him chanelling famous lovemen from Jim Morrison to Prince to Barry White. That and the occasional sample is just about the only nod to contemporary music, however, allowing Casanova to create the atmosphere of a decadent cabaret. Usually, this sort of thing gets old fast, but Hannon pulls it off by never letting his tongue be found in his cheek. Debonair suavity and Euro-jadedness have seldom sounded this ridiculous, or this good.

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