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A Secret History - The Best of the Divine Comedy

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Album Review

For those who want lyrical bones to chew on, there's no denying Neil Hannon's sly appeal. To dismiss him as "baroque" would be as misleading as pegging him as the missing link between Noel Coward, Anthony Newley, and Scott Walker. But Hannon's highly evolved song constructions, grandiose orchestral pretensions, and baritone crooning seem as much quaint classicism as a bicycle built for two — even as his deft, complex, ambitious arrangements are contemporary. (He's no Leon Redbone.) In the end, his consummate skills as a writer come across most. You hang on the surprise of every wily word, wrapped around venerable melody. Distilled here to a best-of, Hannon makes one of his strongest cases for his dashing, romantic charm. It's this sweeping romanticism, the thick violins and pianos like spectacular sunsets spurring his yearning singing, that transcends his occasional lapses into naughty schoolboy leering. One listen to Fin de Siècle's triumphant "The Certainty of Chance" or A Short Album's cascading "In Pursuit of Happiness" is to open the blinds in a dark room that emit bursts of blinding light; the sweep of the orchestra playing madly, as if running to catch a train, and Hannon's voice bawling along, carried away, shedding its sporadic smugness. Today's Divine Comedy is a lot sweeter and emotional than Dante's. As a word of caution, the uninitiated might find the opening "National Express" and the so-so "Generation Sex" tough going. But with the early help of Hannon's first English hits "Something for the Weekend" and "Becoming More Like Alfie," one can get hooked into Hannon's passion play without realizing it. Pop can mean something more than momentary, torpid trifle again, if only those stifling blinds can be lifted.

Customer Reviews

From Hains to Hannon

For decades ‘til last year there had for me been little inspiration. Then from freebie CDs, Wheat from chaff, and so regeneration to iTunes. Acquainted with your master mind So too in this a younger daughter did delight. The best of yours was ordered. Expressing something and for weeks Becoming more for our princesses in France. Songs defined car made easy journeys. Orchestration for generations And happiness does and should inspire. Now we muse, me, my English lady and our two. Here again our thanks for light of day and time with you. 
Tom Hain, August 2006

Stone cold classic

I remember when I was around 15 and my little bro had Shine 7 or something - a Brit pop anthology and loving Frog Princess by the Divine Comedy. years later in Uni a friend played me Songs of Love as we were both big into Father ted (the theme tune is taken from this track). years later i was browsing a friends CD collection and I asked to borrow this album - the best of The Divine Comedy. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It was so original. The tunes are catchy and stay in your mind but the lyrics are something else. I was working at my computer at the time and kept laughing out loud or stopping my work to play a track again to listen to the lyrics. It was a revelation for me. some of the songs dont work - national express still grates and marevellous Party is just an experiment that does not belong with the rest of the songs here. However, the rest is trully awesome music. Just beautiful tunes that actually touch you - comedy, pathos, angst and satire - hannon is very gifted and is a cut above the rest of britains "i'll sing about what i see," alternative pop culture. Just try it - I did and i still have the CD (sorry Doug).

a secert history the divine comedy

awesome what a classic album a must have for all


Formed: 1989 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Divine Comedy is the alias for Neil Hannon, a British pop singer/songwriter with aspirations of becoming a new wave fusion of Scott Walker, Morrissey, and Electric Light Orchestra. During the early '90s, he built up a strong cult following with a pair of idiosyncratic, critically acclaimed records before his third album, Casanova, became a mainstream success in the wake of Brit-pop and Pulp's popularity. "Becoming More Like Alfie" and "Something for the Weekend," both pulled from Casanova, became...
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A Secret History - The Best of the Divine Comedy, The Divine Comedy
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