- Scott Walker
- Michael Nyman
- Edward Elgar
- Igor Stravinsky
- David Bowie
- Tom Lehrer
- Noël Coward
- The Magnetic Fields
- Roxy Music
- Kate Bush
- Serge Gainsbourg
- Gary Numan
- The Human League
- Electric Light Orchestra
- Miles Davis
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
- Talk Talk
- Flaming Lips
- Simon & Garfunkel
The first incarnation of the band dates from 1989 when Hannon and two other musicians had released an album called Fanfare for the Comic Muse. The album flopped and the band split up. In 1993 Hannon started over with what is considered the official first Divine Comedy album, Liberation. Though sales were modest in Britain, Hannon's quirky, intellectual and gently self-ironic style earned him a fair bit of success abroad, especially in France. This early fame across the Channel resulted in Hannon working on and off throughout the following years for the French music newsmagazine Les Inrockuptibles, conducting interviews of such singers as Jarvis Cocker and Björk.
Having received confirmation of his musical abilities, Hannon released Promenade in 1994, an album that references Michael Nyman and is reminiscent of the films of Peter Greenaway; even more than Liberation, it is replete with artistic and literary allusions (the song "The Booklovers" is simply a long list of writers' names, while the song "When the Lights go out all over Europe" uses elements of the soundtrack from a Godard film).
During this phase Hannon cultivated the persona of a dapper dandy, appearing in public clad in impeccable suits. He toured Europe alongside Tori Amos and, with Björk's encouragements, released Casanova. The album was his greatest commercial success to date, and was followed by the equally successful A Short Album about Love and Fin de Siècle, the latter gaining a successful single in the form of "National Express".
The Divine Comedy attempted to become more than just Neil Hannon and interchangeable backup musicians with the more mainstream album Regeneration in 2001, but the experience only convinced Hannon that he could only express his vision by retaining exclusive authorship and control. Absent Friends was released in 2004, Victory for the Comic Muse (a wink to the band's first album) in 2007 and The Duckworth Lewis Method (a cricket-themed collaboration with Pugwash's Thomas Walsh) in 2009. Hannon also provided vocals for the soundtrack releases for the Doctor Who 2005 and 2006 Christmas special songs "Song for Ten" and "Love Don't Roam", and the soundtrack of the movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
The tenth studio album, Bang Goes the Knighthood, was released in 2010, along with a second Duckworth Lewis Method album Sticky Wickets, in 2013. 2016 saw the release of Foreverland, their eleventh studio album.
The Divine Comedy provides examples of:
- Bait-and-Switch: In "The Frog Princess", after spending much of the track expressing his distaste for the subject's behaviour, the singer leads one to think that, after letting her go, he actually misses her:And now I'm rid of her, I must confess
To thinkin' 'bout what might have been,
And I can visualise my Frog Princess...
Beneath a shining... guillotine!
- Beach Combing: The inspiration for Eric the Gardener is likely to have been the discovery of the Hoxne Hoard in 1992, by a retired gardener who dabbled in metal detecting as a hobby. The situation was imagined as Julius Caesar arriving on the British Isles, not finding the weather to his liking, and deciding to leave some knick-knacks buried there for posterity before leaving.
- Bold Explorer: The focus of the title track of Foreverland, in which a captain of a ship tries to keep his disillusioned crew motivated for their voyage to the land that he has long sought.
- Canon Discontinuity: Fanfare For The Comic Muse has been completely disowned.
- Caught in the Rain: "Geronimo".
- Cloudcuckoolander: The narrator's girlfriend in "Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World" is apparently one of these, at least from his perspective. He's madly in love with her anyway.She's a mass of contradictions;
A pick-and-mix of strange convictions.
It can be a source of friction,
But there are worse afflictions;
Love doesn't make distinctions.
- Defictionalisation: "My Lovely Horse" from Father Ted is a b-side on one the their singles, sung by Neil.
- Everyone Can See It/All Love Is Unrequited: "Everybody Knows (Except You)"
- Fading into the Next Song: The glorious segue from "Ten Seconds To Midnight" into "Tonight We Fly" on Promenade
- French Jerk: A female version is the subject of "The Frog Princess".
- Hammy Herald: The concept of The Booklovers runs on this, as he announces a long list of writers that way.
- I Am the Band: Neil Hannon very much is The Divine Comedy.
- Incredibly Long Note:
- The end of "Can You Stand Upon One Leg?"
- He's got the skill to do it in a couple of others too; "Our Mutual Friend" and "The Summerhouse" come to mind.
- In the Style of...: "I've Been To A Marvelous Party". Only The Divine Comedy could even think of taking a Noël Coward song and laying on some thumping techno, never mind actually making it work.
- Large Ham
- Literary Allusion Title: The name of the band is (obviously) inspired by Dante's eponymous masterpiece... which Neil didn't actually read until a few years into his career.
- Lyrical Dissonance: A recurring trope in their songs:
- "Something for the Weekend" is a very jaunty number about a man being attacked and robbed by his girlfriend.
- "The Complete Banker" is an upbeat tune about the malpractice of the financial sector leading up to the global recession.
- "The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count," a catchy, cheerful track about the effects of hayfever (though it is about how he takes it in his stride).
- "National Express" is one of their most upbeat songs, and ostensibly it's about a man viewing sights outside the window of the titular bus, but the music video and some of the lyrics strongly suggest that it's about a man who fakes insanity to get himself thrown into a mental asylum in order to escape his stressful life. The ending implies that he starts doing his act a bit too well and ends up getting himself lobotomized.
- Must Not Die a Virgin: "To Die a Virgin" from Victory for the Comic Muse. Complete with that trope's page quote.
- Northern Ireland: "Sunrise"
- Ode to Intoxication: "A Drinking Song".Back at the house, a bottle is found,
And opened in honour of those who have drowned,
While we who have not are stricken with guilt,
And dutifully see that not one drop is spilt!
We're drinking to life, we're drinking to death,
We're drinking 'til none of our livers are left!
We're wending our way down to the spirit store;
We'll drink 'til we just can't drink anymore!
- Perky Goth: "The Happy Goth".
- Recycled Soundtrack: Songs of Love was originally written as the Father Ted theme before it was later reworked into its own song.
- Teenage Death Song: "Your Daddy's Car" is about a couple who go on a drunken joyride and end up crashing the vehicle into a tree.
- Trauma Conga Line: The last verse of "A Lady of a Certain Age" is one for the titular english Lady. Formerly a rich it-girl who could be found at Noël Coward's parties, she is left penniless after her husband dies and leaves his villa to his mistress. To add insult to injury, her children don't visit her anymore, and even whe she goes to a bar to escape her little flat, men there don't believe her when she lies about her age.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change:
- "Generation Sex", "The Summerhouse", "Can You Stand Upon One Leg?".
- "Absent Friends" does it twice before reverting back to its original key by the last verse.
- Unmanly Secret - Deconstructed in "Freedom Road", where the singer feels that he can't open up about the beauty he sees on his travels as it would ostracise him from his other trucker friends.Well I've seen the power of the lightning storm.
I've seen the endless ears of corn.
I've seen the lakes at the break of day;
That shit takes my breath away.
But if I were to even start
To tell them how it melts my heart,
Never more would my truck-stop friends
Look me in the eye again.