(inspired by Duel!)

Of course the Divine Comedy is worse than REM. And let’s be clear about it, I loathe REM from the depths of my innermost being. And not just for the exceptions (“Shiny Happy People”, “Everybody Hurts”); tracks in which Stipe’s Messiah complex and fatuousity are matched cliche for cliche and truism for banality by his backing band’s tedious rock stylings. But throughout an oeuvre in which the mind-numbingly plain has been wrapped in the trappings of ‘alternative’.

I mean who buys these guys’ records? Fuckwit college-kids who want to impress the chicks but know that their Green Day LP won’t cut the mustard? Accountants who want some soul to fill their meaningless and vapid number-crunching? Ex-punks beginning to feel the onset of middle-aged spread and whose salary is not living up to the expectations they had when they arranged the mortgage on the semi, and who can only afford tried and tested, safety in numbers, jangle-bleating pap? For fuck’s sake, Simon Mayo is an REM fan. They’re a Travelling Wilberries for the Nineties.

But, oh, the Divine Comedy… What idiot decided it would be a good idea to give this nonce enough cash to make the chirpy orchestral pop theatrics he wanted to? And let’s face it, he never fucking delivered the goods on those anyway. Think back to Promenade — what the fuck? Irony and Noel Coward should be left to, well to Noel Coward and Frederic Schlegel. But the recent records, which seem specifically designed for college radio stations to play between Travis and the Stereophonics as a bit of cultural light relief; for closet homophobes to pout and preen to; for schoolkids who want to navigate between the Scylla of the plastic Britney clones and the Charybdis of those nasty Oasis boys… words cannot describe how bad they are. Think about “National Express”, the thematic counterpart to the entire Divine Comedy project, a rhetorical setpiece of slumming it on the coach to Leeds with the old ladies and the backpackers and the people who can’t afford the train. Which is the only reason any fucker takes the bastard coach. Doesn’t this repulsive attitude suggest that the whole of the Divine Comedy is musical slumming; the know-it-all Bishop’s son pretending to lower himself into the common world of popular music by making records whose pomp and circumstance (not to mention the revolting cod-classical / music-hall accompaniments) always wants to imply that they don’t really belong here, that they’re a little bit smarter, a little bit above ‘this.’

And he’s got big ears and a stupid haircut.