a short site about The Divine Comedy

A Secret History

Perhaps Neil Hannon had the U.S. in mind when he named this retrospective, because most American listeners are wholly unaware of the Irishman’s symphonic pop oddities. With ‘60s pop legend Scott Walker, composer Michael Nyman and the Magnetic Fields as influences, Hannon is both a bombastic show-tune impresario and an unabashedly jaunty Britpopper. Fortunately, sweeping orchestral arrangements go well with either guise. This 17-track collection documents Hannon’s five-album evolution from egghead piano man to passive-aggressive voluptuary to cheeky chronicler of pre-millennial Europe. This middle phase, with its tales of squandered lust, unrequited love, and emotional manipulation, remains the best. But as a social satirist Hannon is always highly quotable. His jaunty melodic flair allows A Secret History to work as a singles jukebox, and the rollicking, horn-driven ‘Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count’ tidily sums up in all its joy and beauty, but it also makes him sneeze.

73/100

Jason Cohen
Request 03/2000