Trying to pick your favorite song by The Divine Comedy is like asking Mama Kardashian to choose her most pointless child to whore out: there's just an embarrassment of riches to select from.
Chances are you're not familiar with The Divine Comedy and the brilliance of the man behind the band, Neil Hannon. Sadly, I don't share the talent of the other contributors here for writing beautiful sentences that convey through mere words the often immense feelings and vibrant imagery that music can summon. Nor do I have the technical expertise to describe their sound. So forgive me as I clumsily attempt to express the utter brilliance of this band.
The Divine Comedy's fabulousness is 33% lyrical genius, 33% musical brilliance and 33% Hannon's wonderful crooning (and 1% Bifidus Regularis for good digestive health). Put them together and you get beautifully crafted songs: poignant, pointed, witty lyrics paired with soaring music, sung with intelligence and grace. If you haven't had the absolute pleasure of listening to them, here are five to start you off.
- The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count: Only the best song about summer ever, this is perfect for singing along to while driving around with the top down. It's probably also the only song ever about allergies (not counting the rumored 'lost' Morrissey track "I Am So Unlovable My Sinuses Have Forsaken Me"). Hannon implores the listener to put aside the itchy eyes and post-nasal drip and enjoy the season, singing "even when I get hay-fever I find, I may sneeze but I don't really mind". It's a great song to pull you out of even the worst antihistamine coma.
- Songs Of Love: If you've ever seen the brilliant Irish TV comedy "Father Ted", you'll recognize this as its instrumental theme song. Removed from this context and with its lyrics reinstated, it transforms from the preface to a half-hour of Catholic-based hilarity to a gentle, lilting melody about a shy young lad in a world of teenage lust. Hannon's narrator sings of sitting in his bedroom composing love songs while his more outgoing peers are out pursuing girls who "gather in herds, of stiff knee-length skirts, and white ankle-socks". It's a beautiful tune packed with intelligent, clever lyrics.
- Generation Sex: This song, released in 1998, is a biting indictment of a generation (of which Hannon counts himself) that damns public figures for taking part in sexual escapades while hypocritically lapping up the coverage in the tabloid press. Hannon references the 1997 death of Princess Diana (in a car accident while being chased by paparazzi) by pointedly noting:
A mourning nation weeps and wails
Of evil tabloids healthy
The poor protect the wealthy in this world
- In Pursuit Of Happiness: A wonderfully joyous song about being in love, with an incredible instrumental interlude that makes you want to race out and kiss random strangers with giddy abandon. Until, that is, Hannon brings you back to cynical reality, ending the song with "Hey, don't be surprised, if millions die in plague and murder. True happiness lies beyond your fries and happy burger."
- Down In The Street Below: This brilliant song addresses the question of whether anyone is truly happy with their lives. Hannon opens the song recounting a predictable domestic life - never varying from its routine, never challenging - singing "well it's always a pleasure and never a chore, but you just don't know whether you're doing it for the right reasons." The song ends with Hannon singing of another life - this one of wealth and glamor and just as equally unfulfilling. In between, he speculates on the lives of ordinary others singing of how, if someone asked "they would say how lately they've been wishing, for the chance to meet a handsome stranger, lead a life of elegance and danger." Throughout the song, the music reflects Hannon's sharp lyrics, quietly underscoring the emptiness of its beginning and end, but picking up to a frenetic pace in between when he sings of people busying themselves with mundane tasks as a way of avoiding the true unhappiness of their existence
Bonus Track: Jackie
Not strictly a Divine Comedy song, but a fantastic cover of the Jacques Brel song and worth seeking out.