The 1999 release of A Secret History….The Best Of The Divine Comedy included a couple of previously unreleased songs, one of which was this rather exquisite number:-

mp3: The Divine Comedy – Gin Soaked Boy

It’s a song in which almost every line starts off with ‘I’m the….’.  In my book, it’s a ridiculously clever lyric with a lot of humour, that turns quite surreal near the very end with the reference to the actor Jeff Goldblum.

But there are some who thought it was all a bit pretentious.  David Stubbs, for instance, who penned a rather vitriolic review in the NME:-

“Drat it and fish hooks,” thought Hannon as he scurried across Main Quad towards the Junior Dorm. “I’ve made an awful bish of this pop lark. A beastly rotten bish.”

His sandals crunching on the gravel, he was just a blur of clever reference points at waist height as he whizzed past the RSM’s dog, Monster. He thought of the awful ragging he’d got from the younger boys after prep when they’d heard the ‘National Express’ single. He wouldn’t pick up crumpets like that any more, that was for jolly certain.

“Glad rags on as per Matron’s recco?” he thought. “Rather! Slightly glummo fizzog on one, rather like old Eggy Duggan’s after his Mater rescinded his Railway Modeller subscription? Rather, rather! Lots of whizzo prank lyrics like, ”I’m the goodness in the bad/I’m the saneness in the mad”? Sound a bit like James?

Oh. Maybe they’d hate this single, too. He suddenly felt another terrible biffing coming on.

By the time a ‘Best Of’ album was in the pipeline, the NME had long gone past the stage of actually caring about The Divine Comedy, despite the fact the paper had championed Neil Hannon back in the days when he was an unknown.  I don’t suppose the NME readership was actually the target market for the album or the single.

Gin Soaked Boy was actually something of a flop in that it only got to #38, in November 1999, but then again the purpose of its release was only to give a second stimulus to the album which had entered at #3 in the week of its release some three months earlier.



  1. Having previously only had a passing interest in The Divine Comedy, I’ve been slowly catching up this year. I listened to Casanova in full for the first time last week! I also enjoyed 2019’s Office Politics but a lot of gaps to fill in between. My initial impressions that any whiff of pretentiousness is usually blown away by the clever lyrics, ear worm melodies and the sense that Hannon’s having fun and taking the piss out of himself in those more arch moments. I’m loving it.

  2. A nice reminder of
    1) how good the DC and this song are
    2) how much I dislike the NME and their type and genuinely don’t miss them at all

  3. Love this track and, as Khayem said, the humour in the tracks is key. Although I’ve bought many of the albums after the fine attempt at being a “real band” on Regeneration, I find the arrangements/ production to be a bit too Noel Coward. Saw the band live in May and songs I’d dismissed as fey sounded so much stronger in a live setting.

  4. Suspect this ain’t a cover of the great Tom Waits song. Although Divine Comedy Sings Tom Waits might make for a briefly amusing concept LP.

  5. I love this – one of my favourite Hannon sings ever. When they’re good, they’re really good although much depends on the tune – his lyrics are usually great, but sometimes the music strays into bland territory…

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