4 · A Secret History

The lead-up to Christmas is when the Best Ofs reign supreme at all the big music stores, but Most Of ’em are pretty ordinary albums as such. The only best-of I remember with real fondness is Queen’s Greatest Hits—the Oz version—and probably for reasons unrelated to its musical content. (Not that I’ll hear a word against “Killer Queen”.)

So why have I selected a best-of as my fourth favourite album of 2004? To be honest, it’s because I can’t choose. This is, after all, the year I went from knowing nothing of The Divine Comedy to knowing everything, and I love just about all of their albums, all for different reasons: Liberation for its freshness; Promenade for its grandeur and for “Tonight We Fly”; Casanova for its great singles; Fin de Siècle for being the first I heard and fell in love with. The new album, Absent Friends, has some fine moments too, but I can’t honestly say it beats what’s gone before.

So A Secret History it is. As best-ofs go, this is an excellent collection, with all their major singles of the ’90s, as well as carefully chosen album-only tracks (including “Tonight We Fly”) and the compulsory new songs and re-recordings. I wish I’d been paying attention to them when it came out so that I could have scored the bonus CD of rarities, but who knows, maybe it’ll turn up one day. For now, this is as good an introduction to the band—and as good a band—as anyone could hope for.