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Taylor Parkes On The Continuing Brilliance Of Half Man Half Biscuit
Taylor Parkes , September 26th, 2011 08:42

Listening to new Half Man Half Biscuit album 90 Bisodol (Crimond) Taylor Parkes explains why they're one of England's darkest, funniest, smartest groups. HMHB live shot thanks to Steve Toner

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What exactly do you have to do to be taken seriously these days? Take yourself so seriously that light cannot escape you?

For insight, wit and imagination, Half Man Half Biscuit are currently peerless. Sharp as The Fall, cackling through fag-smoke at earnest 80s positivity; jarring as The Kinks' sardonic kitchen-sink palaver in the middle of a Swinging London youth-and-beauty cult. Over the past 20 years they've written fifty or sixty songs as smart, as clear-sighted and articulate as pretty much any pop music, ever ('Tommy Walsh's Eco House', a rumbling squib from the new LP 90 Bisodol (Crimond), is a panic of fast-cut imagery which can hold its own with 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' for wordplay, and for paranoia at the pitch of farce). These songs may not be profound - as though more than a fistful of songs ever were - but the best of them say so much about what Britain has become, about frustrations and disappointments, and about life on the losing side of the endless war against intelligence, they're as close to "important" as pop music gets, now it too has been subsumed into the mulch of modern living.

Half Man Half Biscuit - Tommy Walsh’s Eco House by barrygruff(6 Music session version)

Thing is, though, these songs are funny - often very funny indeed – and humour in music is, for the most part, absolutely excruciating. So, they suffer by association. Even now, there's still this perception of Half Man Half Biscuit as a comedy band: a post-punk Grumbleweeds, the indie Stilgoe. No group in history can have been so woefully misunderstood - Half Man Half Biscuit are, in fact, an antidote to wackiness, a bulwark against zaniness. Fiercely principled, highly literate, sometimes very close to angry, these are songs of open defiance; their real targets, more often than not, are stupidity as a leisure option, the hollowing-out of British culture, the slow death of the post-war settlement. Half Man Half Biscuit tickle with the left hand, with the right hand they draw blood. This, though, is rock and roll, a world so up itself (and thus, so blissfully free of self-awareness), all manner of straight-faced foolishness gets waved through, no questions asked; any amount of brilliance, meanwhile, can be cast to the hinterlands, for the great faux pas of being funny. It's enough to make you weep.

Part of the problem, maybe, is that Half Man Half Biscuit are still discussed in terms of Back In The DHSS, their scurvy debut from 1985 (when they were, briefly, flavour of the month). Much of the praise and blame they now receive - when not being roundly ignored - is stuck in an unrecognisable past, as though they still wrote spindly rants about Len Ganley and Nerys Hughes. Twenty-six years on, that album, fondly as it's thought of by the hardcore fans, has become something of a millstone (and I'd say the same thing goes for 'Joy Division Oven Gloves', a cute little song which sounds good live, but not remotely representative of all that's tucked away in here). Their last nine albums have barely registered, save for the odd appreciative notice in the small print of the music monthlies, as though they were a kind of sideshow... as though Nigel Blackwell didn't write the best lyrics in the world.

Which he very definitely does. 2003's 'For What Is Chatteris...' is beautifully low-key tragedy, a modern "leaving town" ballad with a lyric of stunning economy and grace. 'National Shite Day', from the last LP, is a whirlpool of urban despair, a first verse peppered with laughs of recognition and a second which chills to the bone. 'We Built This Village On A Trad. Arr. Tune', an unsettling hybrid of Ever Decreasing Circles and The Wicker Man, could be, in its way, the best song ever written about life outside the city. Even a very minor song like the loping 'Little In The Way Of Sunshine' is a portrait of the local eccentric as deep and heartfelt as any I've heard: "I know the drivers by their first names, it's said they've got my photo in the staff canteen... my happy-go-lucky affectation conceals extraordinary fires, but it still kind of feels there's little in the way of sunshine heading our way... when the vehicle's in motion, the driver's got nothing to say."

Half Man Half Biscuit a long time ago

The further in you go, the more you find (which is rare enough, these days). A whole list of recurring themes, a set of relentlessly un-rock obsessions as humanly mismatched as yours or mine: cultural detritus, British beauty spots, archaic language, American folk songs, the affectations of the middle classes, cycling, hill-walking, Thomas Hardy, bad manners, bad rock and roll. These songs are a miscellany, lovingly dissected by fans every bit as obsessive as Dylanologists, only with a sense of humour. On this lyrics site, one can learn that 'Girlfriend's Finished With Him' borrows lines from Gaslight And Daylight by Victorian journalist George Augustus Sala, or that 'Malayan Jelutong' quotes from an 1891 essay by Edward W Cox in the Transactions Of The Historic Society Of Lancashire and Cheshire. The idea of Half Man Half Biscuit peddling some kind of beery vaudeville is – 99 per cent of the time – unimaginably far off the mark. What, then, to make of a band whose song about childhood holidays and their forgotten boredom comes complete with a brusque, non-sequiturial "Neil Morrissey's a knobhead"?

Maybe pop's so weighed-down now, with broadsheet preconceptions and the tyranny of bourgeois angst, it can't handle irreverence, particularly the irreverence of the post-industrial north (which has been drained from popular culture so comprehensively over the last 20 years, it must seem slightly odd to those who didn't grow up drenched in it). Hard for some to grasp, it seems, that pop songs which don't try to be solemn might, in fact, have something to say; that laughter doesn't preclude depth, or worth, or serious intent.

'A Country Practice'

90 Bisodol (Crimond) – the (Crimond) being a reference to hymn book convention, another of those arcane in-jokes – is probably their best, certainly their most consistent album. There are fewer obvious laugh-points now, because they're not really needed, the whole thing being soaked in a kind of queasy, mesmerising wit. 'Excavating Rita' is – despite its wince-inducing title – a beautifully complex song about a grief-crazed Betterware salesman whose devotion extends to necrophilia. Poignant, tragic, grimly explicit, sympathetic and horribly funny, it's hard to imagine anyone else attempting a song like this, although until now it would have been hard to imagine Nigel attempting it, either. 'Descent Of The Stiperstones' is a long and beautifully-written monologue, about a chance encounter with an ex-soap star in a chandler's in Shropshire, and a disquieting glimpse of the aftermath of fame - the action takes place between "a Ben Sayers four iron, a brushed doormat bearing the slogan Cofiwch Dryweryn and an oil painting by Mercy Rimell entitled 'The Raging Ostler'." In pretty much all these cram-full songs, every detail is tooled to perfection.

The music, too, is more ambitious and imaginative this time around. Considering how rarely anyone bothers to mention their actual music, you'd be forgiven for thinking Half Man Half Biscuit don't give it that much thought. Yet more bullshit, obviously - in fact, they've always been wildly eclectic (jangle-pop, rockabilly, folk ballad, hypno-beat, country-blues, synth-pop and... much much more). Their default, though, is a post-punk thrash, and while there are still a few of these lopsided stompers on 90 Bisodol, they're outnumbered. 'Excavating Rita' winds through umpteen chords with Beatlish ease, 'Fix It So She Dreams Of Me' is a bit like a chilly Love. Having splashed out, most uncharacteristically, on Liverpool's poshest studio, they still don't sound remotely slick, but the gloss is obvious, and it suits them. Songs which hammer a single riff sound infinitely richer now: 'Descent Of The Stiperstones' is buffed with Hammond organ and twinkling harmonics, 'RSVP' has a trad-folk arrangement full of keening double-tracked fiddles, 'Fun Day In The Park' is flecked with delicate acoustic picking by the enigmatic Ken Hancock (whose great uncle, so we're told, was the first man in Whitehaven to have a Pot Noodle). Bass player Neil Crossley is still the midfield general, breaking off from his endless homage to Steve Hanley circa 1983 for a great Paul McCartney job on 'Excavating Rita'. Even the old-fashioned rockers have a sureness that wasn't always there before - 'Something's Rotten In The Back Of Iceland' lurches madly round blind corners, into the triumphantly-earthbound certainty of its heroine's refrain: "There ain't no stink like the stink you're gonna get from the age-old eel in your decommissioned fridge..."

Half Man Half Biscuit - RSVP by barrygruff(6 Music session version)

Pop music is prone to denialism. Most songwriters try to "transcend" (that is, ignore) the shit we have to live in, since rock and roll romanticism is a fragile conceit, and the slightest contact with reality (that is, Vernon Kay, Bluewater shopping centre and people who say "simples") will debag that fantasy in a fraction of a second. Half Man Half Biscuit, meanwhile, face it down to the point of obsession – every detail, every surface. 'M6-ster', from 1993, is Half Man Half Biscuit's travelling song. Some would hymn the open road or the grandeur of the scrolling landscape - down in the fumes, two feet off the tarmac, Nigel only sees passing vehicles: "Christian Salvesen, Ryder / Curries Of Dumfries / Norbert Dentressangle / North Staffs Police".

The corollary of this kind of honesty is a darkness of the soul - as Bernie Slaven, I think, once said. Insisting on seeing things as they are, when it seems to be doing you no good at all, is a sign of a depressive nature, and something too-often missed by critics is Half Man Half Biscuit's deep-down darkness. The real mood of most of these songs is captured in the cover shot of 1993's This Leaden Pall:

That overcast gloom has underpinned their whole career, rising to the surface in stuff like 'Floreat Inertia', an unmistakably bleak little song about drift and defeat, and the impenetrable introversion of men who've spent so long on the dole, now they can't work at all:

I could be tugging on the beard of science, like a cheeky schoolboy
But I couldn't be bothered, that's why I'm still in the box room
Face down in the last ditch, my natural home
I can do that... but I don't really want to.

Half Man Half Biscuit's "darkness" is peculiarly English, pinched and stoical, tempered with a sworn refusal to get too carried away with itself. 'Depressed Beyond Tablets', from 2005, is probably the key song here: over what sounds like a kids' TV theme, Nigel deadpans a lyric which sounds at first like a pisstake, then a baring of the soul. The truth lies inbetween, perhaps, but it nails the reality of handling depression the English way with unnerving accuracy. I'd say it's a better example of what this group are "really" about than any number of junk-culture jibes - Leonard Cohen, one imagines, would crack a smile at its keynote line: "your optimism strikes me like junk mail addressed to the dead."

'Depressed Beyond Tablets'

The gloom's not lifted on the new LP – it's more morbid than ever - but the balance is struck a bit differently. 90 Bisodol (Crimond) is absurdly dark, literally. Necrophilia, bereavement, poisonings, inconsiderate suicides, madness, issues arising from corpse-disposal ("She knows, I know she knows about the bothy on the Knoydart / I should have listened to Pop Tart Mark and had the head dissolved in acid by a Belgian clean-up team") - its humour's inky, and it barely lets up. The tone's familiar from earlier songs like 'Dead Men Don't Need Season Tickets' (an especially uncomfortable Curb Your Enthusiasm digested into three and a half minutes), or the horrible, hand-over-mouth hilarity of 'Tending The Wrong Grave For 23 Years.' Extended over the best part of an album, it could get wearing... it doesn't, though.

Then there's 'Joy In Leeuwarden', a jolly faux-Dutch singalong to celebrate the 2010 European Korfball Championships – in case anyone thought they had this band pinned down. At first glance, the sleeve notes (which claim it's a cover of a song by Henny Wassenaar and Corien Steenstra, and feature an unlikely quote from the mayor of Leeuwarden, Ferd Crone) look like another impish hoax from the man who once convinced The Guardian there was a Half Man Half Biscuit tribute band from Sunderland called It Ain't Half Man, Mum. In fact, they exist – the Dutchmen, not the Mackems – although efforts to track down an ode to korfball in their back-cat have thus far borne no fruit (and even if he's telling the truth, it's safe to assume that Nigel's translation could fairly be described as... loose). It's good to know, when all's said and done, there's still a level at which Half Man Half Biscuit really don't give a flying toss.

Ferd Crone

Probably the defining obsession of Nigel Blackwell's songs so far is his ongoing problems with the middle class. Suburban cosiness, of course, is the great Aunt Sally of popular music, and most of the brickbats lobbed its way are hackneyed and painfully naïve. Here, it pretty much goes without saying, there are no strangely-archaic swipes at businessmen in bowler hats, no chiding of Mr Clean for not being a junkie who spits at things. Nigel's beef with the urban professional seems to be rooted not so much in resentment of privilege, more in a horror that people whose upbringing gives them the freedom to make so many choices end up making choices like this, creating (and then imposing on everyone) a culture where crass affectation rules. The other sticking point, of course, is that quite a lot of them are pricks.

On the last few albums, the baiting has been wonderfully relentless. 'Paintball's Coming Home' is an extended (and regularly updated) sneer at gauche well-to-do complacency; in the jeering 'CORGI Registered Friends', middle-aged defeat is conveyed perfectly in four words: "For sale, gym equipment." 'Song Of Encouragement For The Orme Ascent' has Nigel crashing a dinner party just for the thrill of causing mayhem, like Monty Python's Mr Equator:"Burst all the bean bags, smoked all the French fags - Hey Mr Gauloises, ou est les hubcaps?". All this peaked on 2008's CSI: Ambleside, with the apocalyptic visions of 'Evening Of Swing (Has Been Cancelled)', and arguably their best-ever lyric, 'Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show'.

Now, eyebrows may be raised at something called 'Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show' being the sharpest and angriest song of the century so far, but you know, that's the way it works round here. It's a unique howl of primal/primate rage at the smugly middlebrow: unable to call on help from above, its hero summons vengeance from below, sneaking his jittery ape into Earls Court and standing back as the swatch-flipping multitude face what lies beneath. Easier to make this point with a vomiting forth of salty oaths, and numerous uses of the word "id" - only the visionary frame their rage as a chimp hurling occasional tables at a cowering Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.

'Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show'

There's a shortage of class rants on 90 Bisodol, but Nigel's other unshakeable bugbear - the oafishness of the modern pop group - is present and absolutely correct. Just as the best parodies of television are done on television, pop groups are uniquely placed to comment on the vapidity of late-period rock and roll – but most are simply thrilled to be a part of it, and seal their lips. No band has spent longer picking at the scabs of rock & roll's self-inflicted wounds: the sense of entitlement, the spurious mysticism, all those no-marks carrying on like they were the bloody Rolling Stones, bands who boast of buying on to a stadium support slot, or a 96-track studio that was haunted by a Red Indian. The warning shot is a pell-mell throwaway, 'Left Lyrics In The Practice Room':

"Demon feet, leave your tomb / Seek out the virgin womb"
Hey Chris from Future Doom,
You left your lyrics in the practice room."

Half Man Half Biscuit - Left Lyrics in the Practice Room by barrygruff(6 Music session version)

The killer blow is saved for later. As early as McIntyre, Treadmore & Davitt, their "comeback" album from 1991, Half Man Half Biscuit had written the definitive takedown of indie self-regard in the eye-poking 'Girlfriend's Finished With Him'. Eleven years later, on Cammell Laird Social Club, mockery had curdled into outright disgust: 'Thy Damnation Slumbereth Not' may be the most appalled song ever written about the music business, and anyone who ever ventured into the media netherworld (and emerged with at least a shred of self-respect) will feel it, in the sternum.

Another decade has gone by, and the grievance is festering. 90 Bisodol's closing track, 'Rock And Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools', is Nigel's most direct attack on a world he still can't believe he's a part of: posers writhing on Soccer AM, pub bands slogging through their tatty pantomime, trustafarian whines hothoused in the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. A feverish five-minute nightmare, this is scorched-earth stuff, undoubtedly the nastiest Half Man Half Biscuit have ever sounded (what's more, it proves that Nigel may just be the world's number one white rapper).

'Bad Wools' isn't a jibe from afar, more a response to a personal insult. Tempting to suggest this band exist outside of rock & roll, with their decidedly non-Dionysian concerns, and the distance that they keep. I'd say, though, that Half Man Half Biscuit are rock & roll – in that the energy, individuality and sheer force of what they do is closer to this music's roots, and all it can achieve, than almost anything else that's left out there on its wind-picked, overfarmed land.

'Thy Damnation Slumbereth Not'

Back in 1998, Half Man Half Biscuit recorded a song called 'A Country Practice', recently voted the favourite track of fans sufficiently bothered to vote. It's an amazing piece of sustained, barely-contained vitriol, flitting through the foolishness and waste of the late 20th century, settling at last on the folly of the London millennium celebrations. In its last verse an old woman, denied a hospital bed by the billions earmarked for malfunctioning fireworks, sits at home in front of the telly and expires with the century. All of Nigel Blackwell's brilliance is there in these bottomlessly bitter lines, which isolate the horror behind the blanding of Britain, and the realisation that yes, it's really come to this: "They reckon the last thing that she saw in her life was Sting singing on the roof of the Barbican. Sting, singing on the roof of the Barbican."

That was the moment when Half Man Half Biscuit really broke free of their ragged beginnings, and became something which, in 1985, no one could possibly have predicted - not just the funniest group in the world, but something serious and valuable, too. Back in the first verse, Nigel drops his guard for once, complaining of the commercial and critical oblivion into which he'd sunk. "Where did that bloke go who said I was vital?" Probably off to B&Q with the rest of them… but you know what? He was dead right. Say it again: Half Man Half Biscuit are vital, and 90 Bisodol (Crimond) is not just the funniest album of the year.

Sep 26, 2011 1:47pm

Really rather lovely article - I have long said that Nigel is one of the best lyricists in British music and have loved HMHB since someone pressed a cassette of "Back In The DHSS" into my hand when I was at school.

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Terry Doherty
Sep 26, 2011 2:17pm

It is a relief and a breath of fresh air to read an article on HMHB that understands them. The lyrics are some of the finest poetry and the tunes get better every album.
Thank you for this.

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Sep 26, 2011 3:18pm

Like Skippy, I got a tape of "Back in the DHSS" pressed on me early on, which passed into album purchases, a first live experience in Harlesden and a continuing multi-year obsession.

Not for nothing have I spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to cover HMHB songs on my YouTube Channel. Lyrically none finer.


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Sep 26, 2011 5:02pm only on my 4th listening of what will prove many I am sure

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Sep 26, 2011 5:45pm

Possible proof reading check needed
In Stiperstones I thought the chandlers was in Montgomery (and so over the border in Wales - not Shropshire)
Though can't check as my copy of the new CD is not with me at this address - so could easily be wrong.

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Sep 26, 2011 7:14pm

After a particularly rubbish day recently I stuck on National Shite Day and remembered there's always someone else worse off than you are (Stringy Bob?). I then attempted to convince various of my acquaintance of the consistent brilliance of HMHB. This excellent article will do that much better than I ever could although I managed one convert. Thanks for this, it's another Quietus triumph.

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Sep 26, 2011 7:22pm

Excellent stuff.... these guys have been due a serious look for a long time...

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Nadeem Jojo
Sep 26, 2011 7:22pm

Top notch article on those national treasures(john peel) the mighty hmhb.

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Sep 26, 2011 8:03pm

Excellent article. Thanks.

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David Bell
Sep 27, 2011 1:30am

Absolutely spot-on, though I think their name's been as much (if not more) of a millstone as Back in the DHSS. Their chirpy misanthropy (which paradoxically stems from an obvious love of life, despite the bleakness) keeps me going when I'm down as much as anything else ever has.

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Sep 27, 2011 2:04am

The band that remind you that that yes the world really is going to shit, you're not going mad. A raised glass [of real ale obviously] to the Good Ship Blackwell, long may he sail.

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Sep 27, 2011 2:22am

Superbly written and very insightful assessment of my favorite band of all time. As one of probably a few thousand (hundred?) American fans of HMHB, I often wonder if it is possible to appreciate them more, given I only understand about 1/3 of the unretrievably British cultural references.

No matter--Nigel's intoxicating wordplay, coupled with the varied attack of the music, creates such an invaluable listening experience.

Thanks for mentioning the track "Depressed Beyond Tablets", a real achievement more witty and insightful than any word on the subject. Imagine! A thoughtful song about depression that is laugh-out-loud funny and brilliantly observed. Morrissey and Robert Smith could only dream of this sort of acumen.

Nigel Blackwell is a national treasure, on par with Shakespeare, the Beatles, Monty Python and Benny Hill.

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Tony Bartholomew
Sep 27, 2011 9:30am

Great, great piece, Taylor. I echo the sentiments of Terry Doherty below - finally, an article that nails exactly why this band are such a treasure.

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Sep 27, 2011 9:40am

Agree - Really well written and by someone who "gets" HMHB. Thanks

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Sep 27, 2011 12:00pm

Crossley & Blackwell. Arf. This album is their best for a while I'd say, although they're not the kind of band you judge like that. If I was even more of a tool than I am I'd say it was a 'massive return to form..'

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Steve Tuck
Sep 27, 2011 2:00pm

Great piece of writing, I have many friends who can't be arsed to listen to lyrics, they just pick up on choruses, hmhb are the one band you don't mind having on your i pod when stuck on the train, yes i sing a long, smile and occaisionally laugh out loud. I think to sum them up you either get them or you don't. Thank god I do. Look forward to the next album in about 4 years time.

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Newfield Chris
Sep 27, 2011 2:48pm

Brilliant article that sums them up perfectly. Also great to see a mention for Bernie Slaven!

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Sep 27, 2011 3:09pm

Great stuff, this. A similar but far less eloquent tribute article has been rolling around my own head for the last two years. Thank you for beating me to it and for doing it better than I would have.

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Doug Watson
Sep 27, 2011 4:26pm

What a great piece about one of the best English bands ever (though of course they don't count to many because they haven't sold millions of albums!). Their latest album is top notch and is deserving of some attention today. Great lyrics as ever and superb tunes. HMHB have learnt the most important lesson and that's if it ain't broke don't fix it and '90 Bisodol' is a fine addition to the HMHB canon.

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Stephen Dalton
Sep 27, 2011 4:42pm

Another magnificent TP piece... always loved HMHB precisely because of that tragicomic, introverted, overcast, disappointed, quietly bitter small-town Englishness that Taylor pinpoints. Echoes not just of Mark E Smith but also Jarvis Cocker, Alan Partridge, John Shuttleworth, Luke Haines, Shane Meadows, Philip Larkin even...

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Dick Quax
Sep 27, 2011 5:19pm

That article is even better than a pair of Dick Quax running shoes.

And I should know.

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Sep 27, 2011 5:26pm

Great article about a brilliant band, good read.

'I want to meet Howard Marks if I can but they say that I can't...'

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Will P
Sep 27, 2011 5:53pm

Fantastic article.

"...flecked with delicate acoustic picking by the enigmatic Ken Hancock (whose great uncle, so we're told, was the first man in Whitehaven to have a Pot Noodle)"

^^ had me in hysterics

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joe stig
Sep 27, 2011 7:33pm

I used to love the biscuits when I was about 12/13 in 1985/86. the lyrics are so spot on, but the rudimentary punk thrash hasn't aged well......still some great songs, but not great tunes.....not for the most part. You can't listen to them for the tunes, really.

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Sep 28, 2011 3:45pm

Taylor Parkes 4eva!


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Sep 28, 2011 6:14pm

We need HMHB more than ever in these dark, dark days

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Sep 28, 2011 9:25pm

I don't know what Nigel set out to do really, but what looks like a way of turning a stonking sense of humour into a few quid to supplement the dole or avoid a dead end job has made him, well, Important - at his best, I wouldn't hesitate to name him alongside Larkin and Hardy. Long may he reign.

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Ade Jones
Sep 29, 2011 8:43pm

A damned fine piece about the Biscuits. Possibly Britains last real folk band. Or where skiffle could have got to given half a chance ;-)

BTW - last couple of times I've seen them, 'Help Me Rhond(d)a' has brought the house down as an encore. I just wish they'd come to Wales a bit more often.

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The Riverboat Captain
Sep 30, 2011 2:37am

The first Facebook commenter is described as "Google AdWords Management Guru at Business Marketing Online Ltd". Fook me if that's not a HMHB song title in the making.

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Sam Macklin
Oct 1, 2011 5:06pm

This is heroic. Thank you so much!

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Oct 2, 2011 8:44pm

In reply to Dick Quax:

Are you really Mr Quax, i remember seeing you many years ago in the Commonwealth games in the all black strip of NZ this is that really his name. Awesome

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The Wrong Detail
Oct 4, 2011 10:19am

To write an article that is as good in its way as the the record it is reviewing is an act of brilliance in itself. Well done Taylor Parkes, long may you continue!

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Matthew Millington
Oct 4, 2011 8:26pm

I am a huge fan of HMHB, and it is a great article. I am also a huge fan of Bernie Slaven and Middlesbrough FC, and I have to say that I am struggling with the quote attributed to The "Wolfman". He was great at scoring goals, and finding himself in offside positions, but "The corollary of this kind of honesty is a darkness of the soul ". Naaa. Bernie is a Glaswegian and he probably said "The wee linesman waved his flag but it honestly didnee matter as ah ran throoo and foond the back of the goal"

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Richard Millington
Oct 4, 2011 9:15pm

I agree with our kid.

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Mark M
Oct 5, 2011 1:44pm

In reply to Richard Millington:

A brilliant article ... I've been an on & off fan since 'DHSS' but caught them live for the first time about 5 years ago which rocketed them up my top bands list and have been obsessed ever since.

I hadn't realised til today that '90 Bisodol' had been released but now have it and have enjoyed a great 'desk day' with this on repeat on the iPod !!

Have now emailed some fellow music fans with a link to this article to try and convert them :-)

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Richard O'Brien
Oct 9, 2011 5:16pm

This is an excellent piece, really well-sustained and argued. I stumbled upon it after trying to do something similar a lot more wankily and a lot less well: is where it can be found if anyone's interested.

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Oct 13, 2011 5:14pm

In reply to GREGG Z:

I'm from the Uk, and I only understand about a third of the references as well!

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Allan J Begg
Oct 17, 2011 3:25pm

In reply to MichaelF:

Great article cheers. Heartening too to see so many equally appreciative comments.

The Quietus: Envy of the fens. Prick barriers, at both ends.

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Oct 25, 2011 11:30pm

Yes, I like.

New album, last track: utterly, utterly back-of-the-net.

Is there an English band still knocking them out after 25 years that's better than HMHB? Don't care anyway.

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Oct 26, 2011 7:12pm

HMHB have pissed on everyone for years.Apart from the Specials.Good stuff

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Nov 6, 2011 4:44pm

In reply to The Riverboat Captain:

The Riverboat Captain: that FB commenter also runs the best HMHB site on the 'net, so i imagine he probably know this too.

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Nov 6, 2011 4:45pm

oh, also, fantastic stuff, Taylor.

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Nov 11, 2011 3:27pm

lovely article, thank you.
National Shite Day inspires me to all sorts of heights of pretension - it really is an amazing song - to the extent that I once set up a facebook page asking it to be made the new English national anthem.

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Joe Hutch
Nov 18, 2011 9:11am

What does Chris Patten think of Deng Xiaoping, or Stephen Fry of Lady Gaga? Why is Istanbul the FT readers' favourite city? What do Bear Grylls and Gary Shteyngart dream of doing on holiday. And where can you have lunch with Angelina Jolie, Roger Waters or a Shaolin abbot?

That reads like one of Nigel Blackwell's musings, but is in fact lifted verbatim from a plug for the FT's Life and Arts section.

Nigel Blackwell is, in his own quiet way, a genius and a true star.

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Nov 18, 2011 10:36am

Proper good. Watched the Bill Hicks biopic last night, and now this. After a refreshing lemon juice enema, I'm going to go and burn down a service station.

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Rock Ferry
Jan 16, 2012 8:28pm

You can take the man from Birkenhead, but you cannot take Birkenhead out of 80's man. I'd say Dickens needs a reference as we kids look on at the daily freak show around us. They can actually get in touch now you know, when once we could just gawp at our tellies or local radios and feel sorry for the poor sods. Less despair more Despar! Or Walmart or Primark or Asda SuperCentre, Super Sunday, Super League, HMHB league of their own!

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Cameron Carter
Jan 19, 2012 1:42pm

Quality article by a quality writer on a quality band, if I may break into footballing parlance. Any songwriter who breaks off from a rambling digression in mid-song with "Anyway..." before getting back to the next verse, is at the top of his game. An article worthy of the band. Bravo.

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Jun 18, 2012 12:22pm

HMHB have the "beery vaudeville" reputation due to the crowds at their live shows. The "Pogoing" "ex-punks" singing along to every word has long been a feature of gigs. To such an extent that it kind of put me off going to see them, and I'd seen them very regularly since I first did in 1986.

I once mentioned them to a female friend who I thought their clever, dry & funny lyrics would appeal to & she cut me dead saying they were basically a "beery football" thing for blokes. I was quite surprised at that, but then reflected that that was how them seemed. I thought that was a shame as that way a lot of people would miss out.

Or, I wonder, whether their interest in football and blokey references (e.g. to Labradford etc..) might have cemented this reputation?!

As a 15 year old I once kicked a football round outside Probe records with the band, that was one of the greatest days of my life. Having grown up with them, I find it interesting to consider my attitude to them then and now - bearing in mind how much we've both changed.

Just to pick one genius moment from many, at a gig in Matlock Bath around 2001, Ken's pedals were playing up for the duration of the opening song and he desperately fiddled on the floor trying to get them working. At the end of the song Nigel turned to him and said disparagingly "you've had all week"!

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Oct 17, 2013 11:53pm

PhD anyone?

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