An appreciation of The Divine Comedy band

By John Ruberry

Listening to music is a serendipitous adventure. And it was on one of those journeys I uncovered another great band that you’ve probably never heard of, The Divine Comedy. Last year before the post was swallowed up by a memory hole at Da Tech Guy, I profiled another undeservedly unknown band, the Rainmakers. Only I first encountered the Rainmakers on a local radio station years ago.

I discovered The Divine Comedy when I downloaded the “Inspired by the Kinks” compilation on Apple iTunes. A great collection, yes, and easily the standout cut for me was “The National Express,” a satirical look at a ride on the eponymous company’s bus line.

Unknown? As this is an American blog with, I believe, a predominately American readership, that’s true. But The Divine Comedy has scored hits in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Ireland, which is understandable as the band’s only constant member is Neil Hannon, who is from Northern Ireland.

As great as “The National Express” is, there’s just one small issue in my opinion. I’m a huge Kinks fan, but unless you count that British band’s last big hit, “Come Dancing,” it doesn’t sound like any other Kinks tune.

Listen for yourself!

The Divine Comedy’s first album, since cancelled by Hannon, was the R.E.M. inspired Fanfare for the Comic Muse, which was released in 1990. The only place it seems to be available is on YouTube. If you somehow find a copy of it at a rummage sale or used record store, grab it if it’s priced cheap, as it is probably a collector’s item.

The band then “regenerated” three years later into a chamber pop, or if you prefer Britpop band, for Liberation. Actually I prefer the moniker baroque pop. Regardless of the name, what kind of music am I talking about? Think along the lines of “Penny Lane” by the Beatles, “Senses Working Overtime” or “Easter Theatre” by XTC, or “Never My Love” by The Association, the glimmering song that was used with such beautiful yet chilling effect in the final episode of the most recent season of Outlander. Oh, throw in a bit of Cole Porter too. Back to Liberation: My favorite song from that collection is “The Pop Singer’s Fear of the Pollen Count,” which is cleary inspired by the Beach Boys. Yes, I suffer from allergies too so I can commiserate.

Hannon, who writes nearly all of the band’s songs, is a clever lyricist who brings wit and even snarkiness to many of his songs. The Divine Comedy’s melodies are striking and the musicianship is superb.

Here’s a snippet from “Catherine the Great.”

With her military might
She could defeat anyone that she liked
And she looked so bloody good on a horse
They couldn’t wait
For her to invade
Catherine the Great.

Yes, there is a sly reference here to the historical gossip that the Empress of Russia died from a mishap during carnal relations with a stallion.

“The Frog Princess” incorporates strains of “La Marseillaise” into it.

One more Divine Comedy favorite of mine is “Gin Soaked Boy” from the 1999 compilation A Secret History…The Best of the Divine Comedy, which might be good place for you to see if The Divine Comedy is for you. Or you can begin as I did on Apple Music with their “Essentials” and “Next Steps” collections.

Of the band’s dozen studio albums Fin de Siècle, which contains “The National Express,” is my favorite. If you prefer to see what the Divine Comedy is up to now, its latest album is Office Politics. The track I enjoy the most on this collection is “Philip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company.” It’s about a proposed sitcom and its theme song, both devised by Hannon, in which minimalist classical composers, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, operate a furniture removal business in the 1960s in New York.

Silly? Of course. Brilliant? Definitely.

Oh yes, I said “regenerated” earlier. Regeneration is the title of the Divine Comedy’s 2001 album. Perhaps not coincidentally Hannon contributed a couple of solo tracks, “Song for Ten” and “Love Don’t Roam” to Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack from 2006.

In addition to Apple Music works by The Divine Comedy are also available on Amazon.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Three Great Signs of a Healthy Parish: Sign 3 Confession Lines or Anytime

(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20-21-23

This week at mass the first two signs of a healthy parish were in evidence.

As people went up for communion there were some who approached with crossed arms receiving a blessing instead showing respect for the presence of Christ by publicly admitting that they were not properly disposed to receive as per the 1st sign of a healthy parish.

Furthermore not only large families were in evidence but during the responsorial psalm (which this week for Gaudete Sunday was the Mary’s prayer of praise the Magnificat ) the young child who had so loudly prayed the Our Father two weeks ago was praying this. Clearly his parents had taught him his prayers well. All of this is in line with the 2nd sign of a healthy parish.

But the 3rd sign of a healthy parish was also present as we left as the father of that boy held back to ask our priest if he had time to hear his confession.

I and others have often done the same both after a Sunday mass and in the gap between the two daily masses (offered at 7 AM & 8 AM Mon-Thurs). Invariably (although once in a while when there is a family waiting for a baptism the confession has been quick) our pastor has agreed which can be a handy thing because the only thing more reliable than his agreement is that if you turn up for confession at the usual time (3:15 or so on Saturday before the 4:15 mass) you will find a line.

This is very much in line with the sermon that was preached today where Father noted that all people need to be saved from their sins by God and the sacrifice of Christ. As he put it:

Go to a convent and the oldest and most devout nun you there will be in need of the saving power of God.

This is a basic tenant of Christianity. Remember John the Baptist who Christ himself said was greater than any man born of woman declared in Today’s Gospel that his sandal strap I am not worthy to untie. and in Matthew’s Gospel declared to Jesus: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”

If such as John needed the Baptism of Christ for the forgiveness of his sins how much more you and me?

Furthermore a good priest who regularly hears your confession is in a good position to be a life coach steering you away from thing that are a danger to your soul.

I have known parishes where the priest will go the entire hour confessions are offered without a person coming or with maybe one or two regular penitents. This is always a sign of danger. Pride is the 1st of the deadly sins for a reason.

Find a parish with a line for confession and a priest always ready to hear one and you will find a parish that will be around for many years to come.