Monday, May 18, 2015

Neil Hannon...a Horse Fancier?

I purchased The Divine Comedy's A Short Album About Love back in August 2013, and from practically my first listen, I suspected that the entire thing was conceived as a love letter to Neil Hannon's favourite horse. Just listen to If I Were You (I'd Be Through With Me), the album's penultimate track:

"You see, if I were you, I'd end my days
In a field of stupid sheep, just grazing
The grass so succulent and sweet
If I were you I'd be through with me"

Yes, it seems to me that the man who sang My Lovely Horse may not have done so entirely without seriousness. If the lyrics above aren't evidence enough, witness this excerpt from a 1997 Observer article:
"It’s no wonder he ends Casanova with a song called The Dogs and the Horses, a paean to the only animals capable of dopey, unconditional love. 'The most meaningful relationships I've ever had were with these animals,' he said, half-jokingly."
That piece was written shortly after the American release of Casanova, the album immediately preceding ASAAL in The Divine Comedy's discography. As luck would have it, I found a copy of Casanova in one of my local charity shops a few weekends ago, and while most of the record is about lust and seduction and sex (presumably with humans), the closing track does indeed give us yet more proof that Hannon's heart is reserved for horses:

And, okay, maybe dogs too.

Initially, The Dogs and the Horses seems like a rather strange ending for Casanova. By the time we reach track 11, we've already enjoyed 45 minutes of adultery (Something for the Weekend), slap and tickle (In & Out of Paris & London), and sex-as-war (Charge); the first-time listener may well wonder where this Walkerian song about death comes from at the very last minute.

But actually, it fits quite well into the Casanova narrative (and into that of The Divine Comedy at large). Neil Hannon's naughty bits get into all kinds of lewd adventures over the course of this LP, and yet the final track makes it clear that while his legs are open to all comers, Hannon's heart is reserved for dogs and horses (just as I'd always suspected).

The lyrics of If... make a lot more sense now. No wonder he's fantasising about the object of his affection being a horse (and, later, a dog).

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