All Hail the Dark Lord of the Twin Moons (The Sampsans Epasode Numbar 164,775.7)

s22Even the heat death of the universe cannot prevent Fox from renewing The Simpsons. The show staggers on, a grim spectre of its majestic former self, but it’s no secret that the opening sequences handled by guest animators are the only part still worth watching. For the definitive proof, look no further than 2014’s “Clown in the Dumps”, a thoroughly unremarkable episode you may dimly recall hearing about because the producers hyped it as killing off a major character. As the title’s rubbish pun suggests, this was actually the very minor figure of Rabbi Krustofsky, father of Krusty the Klown. It was a milky bait-and-switch, the kind of feeble grasping for relevance tinged with nerveless fear of creativity that characterises the show’s long winter years. No, the only thing that matters about this episode is the opening sequence animated by Don Hertzfeldt, which may well be the single greatest moment in Simpsons history.
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Asleep Behind the Wheel (Promenade)

promenade 1If Liberation was Neil Hannon’s artistic breakthrough, it’s 1994’s Promenade that showed he knew it – and that, having scrambled and experimented until arriving at what was basically going to be his signature sound, it was time to dig in and explore this new territory. The resulting album essentially refines Liberation, keeping its tone while amplifying its orchestral elements and bringing a tighter conceptual and thematic focus to the lyrics. If there’s one point on which music critics and the Divine Comedy faithful can generally agree, it’s that this is Hannon’s greatest work, and the benchmark against which all subsequent albums must be measured. So, what’s the consensus masterpiece really all about?
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A Strange God in My Head (Indulgence No. 1)

indulgence a-sideHere’s an odd one. In October 1993, two months after the release of the Liberation album, Setanta quietly put out another Divine Comedy record. Intriguingly titled Indulgence No. 1, it has three tracks, no front cover, and no lyrics written by Neil Hannon. What even is this thing?
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The Parting of the West

craggy mondasWhen the storm came, it was all storms; the ur-storm. Every tempest the Atlantic had ever unleashed before that night was just a premonition, each squall that would escape its abyssal depths from that day forth merely an echo. It would not be named. Continue reading

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The Wind Is Getting Up Now, Soldier (The Training Camp)

lv1-01Naturally, the first level in Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds is the game’s smallest and most straightforwardly designed. Set in a rural area south of London (specifically Sussex, judging by the loading-screen map), it’s largely a linear affair. Like all fourteen levels, it begins with a subtitled mission briefing superimposed over an aerial tour of the surrounding landscape. (The loading screen and opening flyover frequently disagree, to varying extents, about what a level’s name is – in this case, the former leaves out the definite article. I’ll be opting for whichever title offers the most elegance and symmetry.) The camera drifts down a country road, circling round a military base to settle at last on a humble Armoured Lorry – our first vessel.
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Each Fantasy Chosen Begins (Liberation)

liberation-frontAfter several years – and several records – spent cycling from the influence of one overwhelming monolith to the next, The Divine Comedy, a band which has essentially been a shifting progression of tribute acts with glimmers of promise, suddenly snaps into lucid perfection. Territory is delineated. Muses are secured. Neil Hannon has arrived.
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We Know Not What We Do (Europop)

europopAt the very brink of consummation, The Divine Comedy’s inevitable evolution into what it was always meant to be experienced a slight hiccup: Neil Hannon decided to stop singing. That’s right: the year was 1991, and Hannon, newly enamoured of Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, had concluded that he must step down as vocalist to focus his performative efforts entirely on the instrument. Accordingly, he recruited his friend John Allen to replace him as lead singer for the new Divine Comedy EP: Europop.
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