a short site about The Divine Comedy

A Secret History

One might consider a Best Of compilation from the fops fop a tad premature, but A Secret History has probably much to do with the fact that Neil Hannon is moving house to major-label-ville and that this is some sort of pay-off for the financially-challenged Anglo-Irish indie Setanta. In terms of Irish pop in the 90s, The Divine Comedys back-catalogue of five albums with eight or nine minor (hence the albums title) pop hits is relatively impressive. The track listing is predictable enough, from the ding-dong Carry On Bishops Son histrionics of ‘Something For The Weekend’, to the wham-bam brassy ‘National Express’, to the almost gothic balladry of ‘The Certainty Of Chance’.

Of the two new songs, ‘Too Young To Die’ and ‘Gin Soaked Boy’, the latter features that familiar baroque strings signature, “ba-ba, ba-ba, de-la-la” chorus, and a light pop touch that probably indicates what attracted Parlophone to Hannons future songwriting inclinations. And the former is a late-night self-parodic ballad featuring the telling lines “Now its time to say goodbye/To my suit, my shirt, my tie/My youth seems to have passed me by”, which certainly heralds some sort of inevitable departure from the irony-bound pretentiousness of his previous material. If anything, both songs reflect the sublime closing exorcism of ‘Sunrise’ from their last album Fin de Siècle, a track sadly missing from this summation but one free of the tongue-in-cheekness that has characterised 90% of their material. But, to make up for that oversight, A Secret History wraps up with perhaps Hannons finest moment to date - the sweetly brisk string quartet led ‘Tonight We Fly’.