Track by Track: Fin de Siècle

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 This is the first Track by Track I am doing for The Divine Comedy. For those whom are not in the know, The Divine Comedy is an Irish Band which formed in the 80’s, and did the music for shows such as Father Ted and The IT Crowd. Today’s Track by Track looks at their 1998 release Fin de Siècle.

TRACK ONE: GENERATION SEX

The album opener really sets the mood of the album quite well. The brass and strings used in the song and the overall chirpy tone of the opener really welcomes you into the album. The mood I get from the album through this album is a well-crafted critique of people and society. Generation Sex takes a look at the sexual revolution that has been going on since the 90’s which arguably continues today. I believe that the song nails it. It sounds good too.

TRACK TWO: THRILLSEEKER

A more traditional rock song, and a slightly slower tempo than the opening track of the album. What I get from this song is a slight Bond theme feel. I feel like if it were more fully orchestrated and slower still, it would make a good James Bond theme for the more recent Bond films. It’s quite a dark song too if you look into the lyrics, about an individual who puts their life at risk doing dangerous things. Ultimately, it is a good song though, with its own epic quality to it.

TRACK THREE: COMMUTER LOVE

The dark tone of this album is apparent with the start of this song, a slower piece than thrillseeker. I like that. The album lulls you in with a faster pace, and the tempo slowly decreases. The slow piece fits the topic of the song, about a man who seemingly obsesses over a woman he sees at a train station. It comes across as quite unhealthy for the man whose the topic of the song. The banging drums and the guitar solos make this song something else, adding to the sense of uneasiness I get when I listen to it. I really enjoy it for that sense of uneasiness.

TRACK FOUR: SWEDEN

This big band piece really changes the tone that you get from the previous track. The suddenness of the brass at the start of the track really brings the tone up. The singer singing about his love of the country of Sweden. He wants to live there for no real reason. It seemingly changes tone, but there is an uneasy tone here as well. The music builds and builds, its fetishising of Sweden, being like heaven, really is quite avant-garde and slightly creepy. Which makes the song interesting, and moves it above album track filler quality to something more.

TRACK FIVE: ERIC THE GARDENER

Track 4 and 5 segue into one another, which is an effect which I continue to praise as one of my favourites when listening to albums. This is the longest of the tracks on the album, and starts off simply, but grows more harmonious and complicated in its composition. The song continues to build and it becomes something quite astounding to listen to, with the lyrics being second fiddle to the music that plays. This is an interesting song to listen to, and is worth a listen to.

TRACK SIX: NATIONAL EXPRESS

The most famous track from this album is undoubtedly this one. The most upbeat track on this album, its almost as if it comes out of nowhere. It doesn’t though. The song really does fit into the album, which is what good albums do. The song’s cheerful sound and upbeat tone is coupled with lyrics that could be considered quite critical of the service. It is clear the singer knows what he is singing about, as the song really is quite detailed in its look into the National Express, picking up on the people that work on them, and the people that use them.

I first heard this song years ago, around the age of 2 or 3, and I had vague memories of it, but now I listen to it, and it is a catchy and memorable tune. Worthy of its status as the best-known track of the album.

TRACK SEVEN: LIFE ON EARTH

The accordion opening on this track, like that of Track 3, really changes the tone of the album back to the darker one seen in previous tracks. It is a trick the album uses quite well throughout and is worth commending. This track really is Realism in a song. Its dauer tone and its building sound really allows this song to be uniform with the others on this album. The french lyrics and the accordion make this the de facto title track of the album, at least in a way. National Express has that lead single theme, but this is probably the best song in describing the themes of the album.

TRACK EIGHT: THE CERTAINTY OF CHANCE

This track is one of the more mellow and easy listening ones on the album, with beautiful lyrics, and no instruments that would sound that harsh to the ear. The song is very self-reflective and certainly one of the most poetic ones on this album. In my opinion, it really is a good example of what makes this album really good. The ending really cements that dark mood you get throughout the album, and I won’t spoil it, as it is something one must listen to understand.

TRACK NINE: HERE COMES THE FLOOD

In my opinion, The weakest track on the album, at least in practice. But on its own, it is a good song. However, it did have to follow Track Eight which is quite amazing to listen to. Any followup would be hard, by admission. As in Sweden, there is a big band sound to this song, and really is quite a snazzy track in its own right. I really love the brass section and the male and female vocals that brings this track to life.

TRACK TEN: SUNRISE

The final track of the album, and simply put, the best track on the album. A bit of context, The Troubles refers to a violent thirty-year conflict framed by a civil rights march in Londonderry on 5 October 1968 and the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998. At the heart of the conflict lay the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. This song is the most poignant on the album and describes the feelings the singer, whose Irish, growing up in the troubled island, and his feelings about the conflict growing up and in the aftermath of the Good Friday agreement.

Bar none, it is the most emotional song of the album, and actually brings tears to my eyes when listening to it. It really portrays an image of hope for Ireland’s future at the time. It is simply put the best song on the album. Full stop.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Fin de siècle is French for the end of the century. It’s a term which typically encompasses the turn of a century. And also, it makes reference to the closing of one era and the onset of another. The latter definition really sums up the tone of that album. The end of an era. In the context of the songs, it really does describe the end of a status quo. That’s the theme of the album, the beginning of something new. The beginning of something better. The songs on here are magnificent and really encapsulate that theme. The darkest songs on this album give that sense of uneasiness brought in with change. You do not know what is coming next, but it’s got to be better than what has come before. I implore you to buy this album.

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Ben

Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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