Well that wins album title of the year already. Now that the Fall are no longer around I'd hazard a guess that Half Man Half Biscuit are one of the few Northern English indie cults we can hang onto in these grim days. As always we just have song titles to go on at this stage but it's pretty much worth the admission price alone for examples such as 'Swerving The Checkatrade.'
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It was the laugh out loud moment of 2018 so far when the title of the new Half Man Half Biscuit album was announced. It would actually have been fine to just leave it at that....surely nothing they can do musically can really top it.
We know the score by now. Chug-a-long vintage shambling indie as a vehicle for Nigel Blackwell's always on spot social observations with the odd moment of true inspiration. There's no honing of material here - Half Man Half Biscuit have 13 new songs and here they are presented in no particular order and with the best track coming half way through the second half. More on that later but the first half of the record has plenty of pleasures to behold particularly the Buzzcocks - esque punk pop of 'Knobheads on Quiz Shows', the funky acoustic pop of 'Bladderwrack Allowance' and the dark Fall-seque churn of 'Renfield's Foot' which takes up the slot of the regular spoken word piece before bursting into a punk thrash. I like this crowd friendly, moshpit aiming side of HMHB less than their more considered intelligent offerings though. To counteract this 'Terminus' has some lovely meditations on ageing and loss "hands I once held no longer there....as I try and get used to me and not us" that belies the daftness of some their more asinine offerings.
But mostly it's clever, yet on the first couple of listens I'm still waiting for many of Blackwell's lyrics to come through hard and true. 'Harsh Times In Umberstone Covert' mentions Throbbing Gristle and again has a plaintive quality to its lyrics that harks back to their bleak masterpiece 'This Leaden Pall'. But the best thing here by miles is 'Every Time A Bell Rings' - an absolutely superb song - bound to be a future HMHB classic which opens with the line "ground control to Monty Don" and is a brilliant take down of the sort of people we all know, the sorts of people who have littered Half Man Half Biscuit songs since the beginning of time - the pretentious, the bourgeoisie, the up-their-own-arses. "He stays in the car leafing through a high end coffee bean catalogue", they inform..."Stop analysing strava" they insist.
So another good album from the biscuits which marries some knockabout material with more reflective music. It's maybe two or three tracks too long and ends somewhat with a whimper but there's enough good stuff here and I doubt anyone will be disappointed by this.
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