About The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy are a chamber pop band from Northern Ireland formed in 1989 and fronted by Neil Hannon. Hannon has been the only constant member of the group, playing, in some instances, all of the non-orchestral instrumentation except drums. To date, eleven studio albums have been released under the Divine Comedy name. The group achieved their greatest commercial success in the years 1996–99, during which they had nine singles that made the UK Top 40, including the top ten hit "National Express".
Neil Hannon has been the only ever-present member of the band, being its founder in 1989 when he was joined by John McCullagh and Kevin Traynor. Their first album, the heavily R.E.M.-influenced and now-deleted Fanfare for the Comic Muse, enjoyed little success. A couple of equally unsuccessful EPs – Timewatch ; Europop – were to follow, with newly recruited member John Allen handling lead vocals on some tracks. After the commercial failure of the Europop EP, this line-up soon fell apart.
Hannon, however, was not deterred in his efforts and re-entered the studio in March 1993, teaming up with co-producer/drummer Darren Allison, for the recording of Liberation. Featuring a fairly diverse musical outlook that goes from the tongue-in-cheek synth pop of 'Europop' to the classical stylings of 'Timewatching', it is also characterised by a plethora of literary references: 'Bernice Bobs Her Hair' recalls a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald; 'Three Sisters' draws upon the play by Anton Chekhov; and 'Lucy' is essentially three William Wordsworth poems abridged to music. This led to a degree of critical acclaim, but commercial success still proved elusive.
Indeed, it was only some minor success in France that really enabled Hannon to proceed to his second effort Promenade. Released in 1994, and co-produced, once again, with Darren Allison, this was heavily driven by classical influences, with Michael Nyman's stylings clearly an inspiration. Hannon himself acknowledged this when he apparently sent a copy of his new album to the composer, jokingly asking him not to sue. Essentially, a concept album about a day spent by two lovers, it also received similar critical acclaim to that which Liberation was afforded. Commercial success, though, was not forthcoming despite some of Hannon's best songwriting to date, including "Don't Look Down", "The Summerhouse" and subsequent live favourite "Tonight We Fly". Soon after the release of the album the Divine Comedy went on tour with Tori Amos, supporting her during her European dates.
At around the same time, Hannon also wrote and performed, with Allison, the theme music for the sitcom Father Ted , and later wrote the music for the mock-Eurovision song "My Lovely Horse" for one episode. Hannon resisted widespread requests from fans to release the track as a single for the Christmas market, but it was eventually released in 1999 as the third track on the CD-single "Gin Soaked Boy". This would not be the only time they would be responsible for a TV theme, as "In Pursuit of Happiness" was also used by the BBC science and technology show, Tomorrow's World. Hannon also composed the music for the comedy series The IT Crowd, written by Father Ted co-writer Graham Linehan.
The album Casanova , and in particular the single "Something for the Weekend", championed by Chris Evans, then BBC Radio 1 breakfast show DJ and presenter of TFI Friday, led to the band's first major success, with Neil Hannon becoming a distinctive, albeit unlikely, popstar in an immaculate suit, and always appearing the elegant dandy. Casanova was the third album to be produced by Darren Allison and Neil Hannon, thus completing a trilogy of albums which began with Liberation in 1993. Further singles from Casanova were "Becoming more like Alfie" and "The Frog Princess" , both of which received widespread airplay, and further cemented the band's reputation.
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