10. The Divine Comedy – Bang Goes the Knighthood
Divine Comedy Records

Have you sung along to all the silly love-songs you hate?
And have you had to pinch yourself to make sure you’re awake?
Have you ever felt like you could float into the sky?
Like the laws of physics simply don’t apply?

– Have You Ever Been In Love?

Here’s a question – how many albums have their big single as the last track?

Not many I can think of. This is one. The song that finally saved this record from sinking without a trace is at the end of it – “I Like”, one of the loveliest of the lovely things on this record.

The Divine Comedy are still a recent discovery for me. Although in the last few years I have been hooked. Also, in Britain, Neil Hannon is everywhere – from the IT Crowd, Doctor Who, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and even the Ashes. He is the go-to guy for something British sounding. Having had several side projects, he finally made a Divine Comedy record. And it’s great.

From the first song you know it’s something special. Down In the Street Below could well be Hannon’s masterpiece. A five minute seduction that builds from surgically precise lyrics to a swooning lovely string laden chorus. Have You Ever Been In Love adds to the MGM musical feel.

Part of this album, and Hannon, for me, is the Britishness. When I first heard At the Indie Disco, I thought it was daft – a reeling off names from the indie world (Blur, Wannadies, etc). But I think of my nights at Notting Hill Arts Club, the regular seat we took and dancing our asses off. Maybe it’s a British Indie thing, those types of clubs. And Hannon nails it.

Then there’s I Like. Almost an afterthought, it was championed on radio and finally released as a single. Is it Hannon’s best song? It could be. Spritely and fun, it’s a simple love song – one that obviously connected with people. That rush of love, when you just like everything about someone, in a three minute pop song. I challenge you to hear it and not think of someone in your heart.

There’s not a bad track on here – in fact there’s not a track that is only OK either. Some of the deeply orchestral stuff has been set aside, as have some of the guitars. It’s a clear pop album. It’s been years since Hannon has communicated his world so clearly and without trappings. If people still thought of careers in terms of old models, this is a Graceland style late era revival.

Then there’s all those little things I love about albums. There’s a great end of side one/start of side two feel. The album cover is fantastic and even better on vinyl. 12 songs, 45 minutes. Just classic stuff in my world. While making my top ten list, this album just refused to budge. This album just made me so happy this year, and what the hell else should music do?

Eight (or ten, depending on how you want to count it) albums in, and amazingly, I would recommend this album as the best place to start. I’m not sure if there was a deliberate attempt to make an accessible but it’s worked. Hopefully I Like manages to sneak into radio stations and mix tapes, and the wonders of this album spreads.

And if you’ve not heard the track, you must hear I Like.

Best tracks: I Like, Down In the Street Below, At the Indie Disco

Official site – The Divine Comedy

A cheap film clip was made for I Like, to capitalise on the radio play I think. The song deserved a little better, I think!

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