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Arise, Neil Hannon

Stuart Bailie | 14:21 UK time, Monday, 28 January 2013

Back in 1987, Neil Hannon wrote a song called 'Remembrance Day'. He was only 17 and was still in thrall to Bono and Sting. The song was about the Cenotaph bombing and it didn't progress too far because even the author wasn't happy about how it had turned out. It was "too awful".

That wasn't the end of it though. On the 1998 Divine Comedy album 'Fin de Siècle', he chose to sign off with a track called 'Sunrise'. This was more resonant piece of art. He was singing about his early days in Derry-Londonderry, the sense of developing unease and similar encounters when he moved to Enniskillen. The 1987 bombing was alluded to, but he chose not to labour the issue.

Instead, the song deals with things being various, from place names to historical aspirations. In Neil's head, none of this matters if the aspirant is killed for the cause. Some years later, I asked him about it and he was more forthcoming about the notion of killing for a cause. "I just wanted to lay it on the line and say that pretty much nothing is worth being buried for."

'Sunrise' was released into a tentative peace process, the idea that a strange and beautiful thing was being illuminated. It was right for the time, and when Neil recently appeared at Ebrington for the Sons And Daughters concert, 'Sunrise' was reappraised, 15 years on.

Big words like plurality are still being mouthed by our leaders, but their lips are tightening and their concerns are often small-time and parochial and mean. Neil Hannon didn't need to underline any of this. There was much irony in the circumstance of the song. That's not to say that the dawn will never deliver a kiss of brightness. But perhaps we might need to sing the refrain a little louder.



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