The Divine Comedy, A Secret History… The Best Of The Divine Comedy

Robert Sandall

By Robert Sandall

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A beady-eyed, bookish observer at play

Neil Hannon, Divine Comedy's prime mover, seemingly lost his sense of humour, and with it a significant chunk of his audience, after he issued this resumé of the band's early output in 1999. So for newcomers and DC nostalgists alike, A Secret History revisits the best work of a Northern Irish bishop's son whose pop persona was a beguiling mix of Austin Powers and Morrissey. Sung in Hannon's deliciously fruity baritone, comic cameos like "The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count," "The Frog Princess" and the diary of a nightmare coach trip, "National Express," reclaimed the swinging orchestral pop of the '60s and gave it a satirical twist. That Divine Comedy carried this off in such style was partly down to the skillful arrangements of Hannon's classically trained henchman, Joby Talbot. It definitely helped, too, that songs like "The Summerhouse" and "Your Daddy's Car" weren't just done for laughs: here was a beady-eyed, bookish observer at play.