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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

"The Best Of" doesn

This was my introduction into the music of The Divine Comedy. It really just started with hearing Neil Hannon's solo stuff popping up on various TV Shows and movies. He had a nice voice, so what the heck, I bought The Best Of album, and for the price, it's a steal of a deal. The songs on this album are a great mix of very melodic tunes spackled with a bit of a quirky and interesting twist. It's a great album to listen to when needing to escape the normal, overplayed pop/rock stuff on the radio. Describing his work as "dashing, romantic charm" is completely true. *thumbs up*

Addictive and Amazing

This was my first Divine Comedy album. I had enjoyed hearing Neil Hannon sing on Stuart Murdoch's "God Help the Girl" soundtrack album, and went looking for more. At 5.99, a "best of" album seemed a good place to start, and I've been hooked ever since. The lyrics are imaginative, sincere, and playful all at once. Hannon's vocal range is delightful and he has one of the best male voices in pop, in my opinion. This is the most original album I've heard in a long time, and I'm eagerly seeking out more.

Scottish "Pop" for Real Men

I have been utterly impressed with the high quality of the Scottish "Pop Music" (for lack of a better moniker) lately. My journey first began with discovering Camera Obscura by accident when trying to discover the meaning of their "Lloyd I'm Ready to be Heartbroken", having been a Lloyd Cole listener...Camera Obscura led to Belle and Sebastion...which led to God Help The Girl, led to this, as the lead singer's of The Divine Comedy (sorry, his name escapes me at the moment) Hipster song on the God Help The Girl album was impressive enough to led me to this. Quite a Journey...

To the point here...the total package here is a gestalt of melody, orchestration, lyricism, humor and baritone vocals...a bit like Stuart Murdoch after massive testosterone therapy....a relief from the musical rubbish so prevalent out there. I highly recommend this album. And at this price it unbelievable. Long live the music of Glasgow!

REVISED 1/1/13: My apologies, but Neil Hannon and The Devine Comedy is actually Irish, not Scottish....but then again I get people from Minnesota and Wisconsin mixed up too...


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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