Over the past twenty-five years, Neil Hannon, founder and supremo of the band The Divine Comedy, has quietly established himself as one of the most interesting musicians working today. A special skill of his is to produce three or four-minute sketches of people or situations, often over swooning orchestral arrangements, which combine wit, incisiveness and beauty. At his very best, as in his brilliant A Lady Of A Certain Age, a spiritual sequel to Peter Sarstedt’s Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? or in his towering adultery drama Our Mutual Friend, Hannon can be placed alongside his great hero Scott Walker in the song writing pantheon.
On other occasions, however, an innate tendency towards self-regard and jokiness has led to the Divine Comedy being strangely underrated. While their first big success, the witty Something For The Weekend, still holds up very well today, the song that they remain best known for, National Express, is little more than a catchy novelty hit revolving around the indignities and amusements of long-distance coach travel.