The Divine Comedy, Office Politics (Divine Comedy Records) ****

NEIL Hannon has been making clever pop albums under the arch moniker of The Divine Comedy since emerging from Derry in 1989.

Chamber pop, elegant, eloquent pop, occasionally irritating pop, but as witty as Noel Coward, Cole Porter or Flanders and Swann rolled into one whimsical, piano-playing Northern Irishman.

And now, at 48, he has discovered synthesisers, even writing a tongue-twister of a song about them in The Synthesiser Service Centre Super Summer Sale. "But don't panic," he says. "It [the album] also has guitars, orchestras, accordions, and songs about love and greed."

All of which is true, but at the core of his state-of-the-nation report – a kind of National Depress – is the rising impact of "infernal machines" on our lives, together with the rotten state of office politics.

Queuejumper is so arrogant it even has the cheek to jump to the start of the album, the smuggest character portrayal of a selfish pillock since Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney.

Office Politics itself, Absolutely Obsolete, You'll Never Work In This Town Again, A Feather In Your Cap and Opportuntity 'Knox' build up a disenchanted picture of our modern age of too much pressure, zero hours contracts, ruthless managements and joyless jobs, but Hannon's skill is to still leave you smiling in recognition of these First World Woes, even if he sings Dark Days Are Here Again.

"I do try to make normal records," says Hannon. "But it always seems to wander off into odd territories."

None odder than Philip And Steve's Furniture Removal Company, a rising tide of looping frippery about Philip Glass and Steve Reich's alternative career that ends up like a Russian opera. Bizarre but undeniably fun.

Likewise, turning the trip-you-up questions of a Psychological Evaluation into a navel-gazing appraisal of Hannon himself in song is comedy gold.

The double-disc edition comes with piano versions of his songs for Swallows And Amazons, a reminder that the musical will run at York Theatre Royal from July 26 to August 24.

Charles Hutchinson

The Divine Comedy play Leeds Beckett University on October 15