I’ll Take You Upstream, Up to My Origin (Fanfare for the Comic Muse)

fanfare_lp_front-1In 1989, Neil Hannon cast aside the name of October and declared his band… The Cherry Orchard. The band, already the revolving door of members we love so well, recorded five demos in Active Studio before it occurred to anyone that the title of this particular Anton Chekhov play did not make for a very catchy name. And so it was that, after much soul-searching, Hannon turned to his father and announced that his band was now called… The Passion. At this point, the Reverend Brian Hannon of the Church of Ireland informed his son that this new name was a bit offensive, and so Neil started digging about his bookshelves looking for another one. He found one book by some lad named Dante Alighieri. It was called The Divine Comedy. That will do, thought Neil.
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It Doesn’t Arrive Overnight (October 1st)

cd_frontBefore The Divine Comedy, there was October. Neil Hannon’s original band, formed with three friends in Enniskillen, only ever produced two releases: the four-track EP October 1st in 1987, and the album Exposition in 1989. Since Exposition remains elusive, October 1st is our sole insight into this formative era.
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Not to Fools Like Me (The Divine Comedy)

neil-zig-zag Disclosure: Neil Hannon is probably my favourite singer, song-writer, and (as The Divine Comedy) band. The distinction between “my favourite” and “the best” is obviously pretty important here. Broadly speaking, he fits my innate inclination towards esoteric, obscure, and overlooked things, things that don’t already have the appreciation they deserve… but why Hannon specifically? I dare say one reason is that his music is the very essence of Father Ted, his quaintly comedic soundtrack burning itself into my brain at a time when it had barely started recording memories. Some mothers think that playing classical music for their babies will make them more intelligent. The soundtrack to my infancy involved a Lovely Horse.
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Can You Have White Darkness? (Punchline)

Punchline, Robert Shearman, BBV, Sylvester McCoy, Doctor Who, Jeremy LeadbetterIt’s rare enough that Robert Shearman is mentioned without some close variation of a particular phrase. In magazines and on entertainment websites, it’s “the man who brought the Daleks back to Doctor Who”. In conversation, it’s “the guy who wrote the one where Christopher Eccleston’s in the bunker with the Dalek”. I’m not saying that “Dalek” isn’t a great episode – just that it’s the tip of an iceberg a bit more splendid and surreal than you might imagine.
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At the Centre of It All, Your Eyes (Blackstar)

blackstar scarecrowsThe concerns of Blackstar are numerous and often inscrutable, with Bowie’s death dominating the discourse surrounding its interpretation to a frankly suffocating degree. The day after the album’s release, the media was awash with a myriad conflicting reactions, from delight to bafflement, fascination to dismissiveness. The day after that, analysing Blackstar on its own merits became effectively impossible – its status as epitaph consumed it. Now, reading Blackstar as an album about death is as tedious as it is accurate. Nobody will ever interpret “Sue, the X-ray’s fine” as anything but a reference to Bowie’s brief cancer remission. He died on a Monday, so “Where the fuck did Monday go?” is now just a spooky coincidence, a Trivial Pursuit answer. The list goes on. Yes, it’s about death. However, in the outpouring of collective grief, certain key components of that reading were overlooked.
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It’s a Trick, You Know, a Joke (Twice Upon a Timelord)

twice upon a timelordFollowing the nostalgic tedium of The Pair o’ Docs Paradox, the Sci-Fi Sea Cruise largely bounces back with Twice Upon a Timelord, a decidedly better fit for the production’s limited reserves of money and talent (right down to their surely conscious decision to misspell “Time Lord” in the on-screen title). The story this time round focuses on Sergeant Benton’s wedding. Admittedly, this sounds like the concept for a rubbish fanfic (or low-rung Big Finish audio), but it’s not every day you get to see actors slumming it in an unofficial film depicting events which would actually mean something to the lives of their beloved characters.
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Erase This Disaster That Has Befallen Us All (The Pair o’ Docs Paradox)

pair paradoxIn 2006, the only actors the Sci-Fi Sea Cruise managed to secure were Nicholas Courtney and Stewart Bevan. Bevan’s sole Doctor Who appearance was in 1973’s The Green Death, where his character, environmentalist professor Clifford Jones of the Nuthutch activist community, swept the Third Doctor’s companion Jo Grant off her feet. Since Courtney appeared as the Brigadier alongside Bevan in that serial, the only logical way forward was to create a sequel to it. Lo and behold, The Pair o’ Docs Paradox was born. Alas, it’s exactly as inspired as it sounds, and it’s also the longest, clocking in at a regrettable twenty minutes.
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