Tag Archive | "Half Man Half Biscuit"

Half Man Half Biscuit – 02 Forum Kentish Town (June 8, 2018)


Half Man Half Biscuit – 02 Forum Kentish Town (June 8, 2018)

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Joe

One of the few positive things to come out of Margaret Thatcher’s policy of mass unemployment, was the formation of Wirral’s finest, Half Man Half Biscuit.

Thirty-four years later, they stroll out onto the stage of the Forum to rapturous applause and launch straight into “Fuckin’ Ell it’s Fred Titmus”. Nigel Blackwell is still fronting the band and playing guitar. He is joined by Neil Crossley (also a founding member) on bass, long standing drummer Carl Henry. New boy Karl Benson completes the line up on guitar.

Half Man Half Biscuit

When this song was released, an obsession with obscure celebrities was somewhat outside the mainstream. Now, well look at Love Island (or perhaps don’t) …

After this blast from the past, Half Man Half Biscuit play a song from their latest album, “No one cares about your creative hub so get your fuckin’ hedge cut”. Appropriately enough for a band who are getting well into their fifties and presumably have half an eye on their upcoming free bus passes, “Terminus” is a song about bus journeys and getting old, while the next song, “The evening sun goes down” also alludes to getting old and the paucity of music on offer as you do so.   Sentiments that I and the majority of their forty to fifty something audience can well identify with.

Made famous by turning down a TV appearance on the Tube to watch Tranmere Rovers, Half Man Half Biscuit are the antithesis of the 80’s performers trawling the circuit.

Still producing great albums, it seems unlikely that Jo Cox will be playing them at her 80’s night at the same venue the following week. Next up comes “Running Order Squabble Fest”, one of a number of songs this evening that lampoon the absurdities and hypocrisies of every music scene ever. “Look Dad No Tunes” is perhaps the highlight tonight of this vein with its skewering of the middle-class angst that powered grunge.

Over the course of the evening, Half Man Half Biscuit run through a sizeable portion of their not inconsiderable back catalogue and about half of their latest offering. Resolutely anti-commercial, they have produced thirteen albums in their thirty-year career (they took a few years off in the late 80’s to avoid fame and success), not bad going for a bunch of dole bludgers from Birkenhead. Talking of which, one of tonight’s highlights is “A Lilac Harry Quinn” containing the immortal line “if God had meant for us to work, then I’m sure he would have given us jobs.”

One of the original C86 bands, Half Man Half Biscuit’s set is dominated by songs that peel back the fancy wrapping of modern life to reveal the shoddy goods beneath their façade.   Indeed they make cynicism something of a virtue as they contemplate the vagaries of modern life in songs such as “National Shite Day” and “Every Time A Bell Rings”, railing against the axis of evil that is “Primark FM”, Bus replacement services and TV movies.

Half Man Half Biscuit 02

Although a band of the 80’s their roots are still in the punk of the 70’s. There is something reminiscent of the Ramones in the succession of acerbic three minute tunes they play.

Additionally, their subversion of folk music, on songs such as “Paintball’s Coming Home”, gives their music a traditional feel that jars pleasantly with the modernity of their lyrics. Indeed, despite their seventies roots, the playlist they pluck tonight’s songs from is like a cultural guide to the British Isles over the last thirty years. The irony of the couple ridiculed in “Paintball’s coming home” for knowing “where things are in B and Q”, and naming their Dog “Prince” (“The one called Sheba died”, is reminiscent of the intro to Trainspotting, and what  Half Man Half Biscuit do so well is tap into the great groundswell of scepticism lurking beneath the surface of this rather cynical sceptered isle.

The irony inherent in their songs and their pop culture references, make them easy to dismiss as a novelty band. But songs such as “Fix it so she dreams of me” are tinged with both sadness and a beauty that prevents them being mixed up with Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine or Weird Al Yankovic.

But  let’s not spend too long in Pseud’s Corner.

At their heart Half Man Half Biscuit is a great rock ’n’ roll band. This is something not lost on me as I spend the last ten songs po-go-ing away like it’s 1991 again. They leave to last one of my favourites, “Everything’s AOR”. With its off beat guitars and its lyrics berating swivel chairs and business acumen, it just goes to show that not too much has changed in the intervening years.

Words and pictures – Gavin McGarvey


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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

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Top 100 Albums (100-91)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

‘Not another Top 100 albums list,’ we hear you cry. Well, yes it is. But we hope that this one will be different from the rest. Granted, there are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities as well with the aim of bringing some different music for you to seek out.

First, let us explain our ground rules. We are an indie and alternative music website so while Pet Sounds and Revolver are among our favourites you won’t find them here on this list. We’ve gone for mainly independent label artists but those on the majors with an independent and alternative slant are also included. We’ve gone for one album per artist, which has been tough for us. We have set no timeline as well, which has meant we have been able to plunder our record collections, our Classic Albums section as well as our recent reviews to bring you music from the 60s through to the last few years.

Everyone has their own list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. We will be releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this first instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

100. Half man Half Biscuit – Back in the DHSS

John Peel favourites, Half Man Half Biscuit, famously missed a TV recording to go to a Tranmere Rovers game and later in their career took a lengthy break to go back on the dole. This lack of professionalism didn’t stop this, their debut album, from being the best selling independent record of 1986. They are one of the few bands who have managed to do comic songs and make them work. Songs about 1970s TV stars, children’s television and The Velvet Underground make this album a pretty unique experience.

99. Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Broadcasting From Home

Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes, who tragically died of cancer in 1997, left behind one of the most diverse legacies in music. He added Burundi drumming to Adam and The Ants, the strings for Sid Vicious’ My Way and some wonderful albums with his experimental-folk-classical  band The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. There were five PCO studio albums but Broadcasting From Home from 1984 is the pick of the bunch, especially as it features the, often used by movie producers and advertisers, track Music For a Found Harmonium. Simon’s son Arthur has since revived the PCO, which continues to tour. More details here.

98. Neko Case – Blacklisted

Neko Case - Blacklisted

Part-time New Pornographer Neko Case has been producing great music on her own terms for several years, and Blacklisted is a high water mark. Backed by members of Calexico, The Sadies and Giant Sand she combines the smokey allure of a bar room singer with the old-time country vibe of Patsy Cline. The songs are dark and beautiful and Case sings them with power and style.

97. The Monks – Black Monk Time

Formed in the mid 1960s in Germany by a group of former American GIs The Monks were punks before their time, experimented in feedback and even  had haircuts of actual monks.  Recorded in 1966 in the early hours of the morning during a hectic performing schedule Black Monk Time was their only album and offers a mid 60s slice of one of the greatest punk pioneer acts. For a full review of the 2009 re-release of Black Monk Time click here.

96. The dB’s – Repercussion

The dB’s are the forgotten men of the 1980s jangle pop scene, their albums received a lot of attention from the critics, but little interest from the buying public. Lead by songwriters Peter Holsapple (who would later work with REM) and Chris Stamey (who would leave the band after this release) The dB’s understood how to write quirky melodic songs as well as any of their contemporaries.  The songs are just as catchy as their debut album, but the production is better and the instrumentation more interesting. Put simply, this is a great pop album and it deserved a much bigger audience.

95. Tar Babies – No Contest

This 1980s act from Wisconson started life as a hardcore punk outfit before drifting more into funk. Here on this little known 1988 album No Contest, released on the legendary SST label,  they blend the two perfectly. Quite simply its a great punk album and an even better funk album.

94. Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird started out playing a twisted variant on swing jazz with his band Bowl of Fire. By 2005, when this album was released, most of the jazz stylings had been dropped in place of a left-field take on folk, pop and alternative rock & roll. Live Bird plays several instruments at once and his musical virtuosity and deadpan vocals are a delight on this album.  His lyrics are oblique and the song structures are as impressive as anything you’ll hear. Few artists have managed to pull off an album this ambitious, and Bird does it with ease.

93. The Walkmen – You & Me

This 2008 album from Brooklyn band The Walkmen  is among our most recent entries and topped our Albums of 2008 list.  ‘In the New Year’ is a highlight, but the album’s true quality is its consistency throughout. Almost mariachi in places, punk in others, Velvet Underground at times all held together with lead singer Hamilton Leithauser’s fierce vocals. Last year’s excellent album Lisbon took the style and mood of You & Me further, but for us You & Me is the better of the two. It’s a tough choice though. Our tip, buy both.

92. No Means No – Wrong

No Means No - Wrong

No Means No’s brand of jazz-hardcore is like nothing else on the varied Alternative Tentacles label. The Wright brothers, along with guitarist Andy Kerr, are more skillful players than your average hardcore punks. Opener ‘It’s Catching Up’ sets the scene, charging in at 100 miles an hour of raucous abuse, and the pace deviates and varies dizzily from there on in. The bass and drums are heavy and the guitars loud throughout, it is intelligent music but never stops being a lot of fun.

91. The Dukes of Stratosphear – Psonic Psunspot

This is the second album by XTC’s mid 1980s pyschedelic alter ego band The Dukes of Stratosphear. It coincided with XTC stopping touring and shows a band throwing themselves into studio work. With producer John Leckie on board each track is a loving, beautiful recreation of the 1960s music they love. Small Faces, Pink Floyd and the Beach Boys are just some of the influences on this remarkable album. The Stone Roses were reportedly so impressed with it they hired Leckie to produce their self titled debut. Read our full Classic Albums review of Psonic Psunspot here.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.


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