16 July 2013

Half Man Half Biscuit - Trouble Over Bridgwater

This is an album Eddie has given me to review as an antithesis to his ‘review an album you’ll hate’ theme.  I’ll try to be objective with this review but Half Man Half Biscuit are one of my favourite bands and Trouble Over Bridgewater is one of their best albums (alongside: Achtung Bono, This Leaden Pall and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Road).
HMHB are a Post-Punk/Indie/Folk band formed in Birkenhead in 1984, by Nigel Blackwell (Vocals, Gutar) and Neil Crossley (Bass, Vocals)  their songs are, often hilarious, social commentaries on English life, from soap operas to dole queues, lower league football to po-faced, indie hipsters. They’re peppered with obscure references that even the most patriotic of Englishman would struggle to catch every one. So much so that their website is little more than a glossary, cataloguing each reference song by song.
Trouble Over Bridgwater was released in 2000 and is their eighth album. This is probably when the band were at their peak musically and creatively and there’s little in the way of filler. Opening track Irk The Purists deals with Nigel listening to mainstream pop bands just to upset music snobs. Simply Red, Del Amitri, Hall & Oates, Michael Ball and Meatloaf all get a mention and there’s a sly dig at the Manic Street Preachers in the line “Be they false or ‘4real’ I don’t care and nor does Neil”.

Nove On The Sly has a similar theme and is about a dance fan dying in a car crash whilst listening to Jazz FM.  24 Hour Garage People, the title being a pun on 24 Hour Party People by Happy Mondays, regards buying Pringles from a late night petrol station and the grumpy staff therein.

 With Goth On Our Side is a reworking of the Bob Dylan song With God On Our Side and deals with the troubles of being a Goth in the Welsh countryside.

“Now my overweight girlfriend, she sits and she crimps.
Her mother's convinced she's communing with imps
Her brother's alright though, he's a good lad is Wilf
‘Cos he's into Placebo and Cradle Of Filth."

Ballad Of Climie Fisher is the, completely fictional, account of what happened to the 80’s one hit wonder, pop band of the same name. I’d like to think it was the truth but sadly not. Mathemetically Safe is a football themed love song and Gubba-Look-A-Likes is a bizarre song about being stalked and haunted by people who look like, recently deceased football commentator, Tony Gubba.

 My personal favourite, and origin of a username I still use, is Used To Be In Evil Gazebo; an account of a lead singer being interviewed by an NME journo. He desperately wants to be seen as a dark, tortured artist but is made to look a fool. It’s mostly spoken word apart from a bellowed refrain of “’I’ve been in a mental hospital but I don’t like to talk about it” and is set to a repetitive bassline. There are several laugh out loud moments in this song let alone the whole album.

Half Man Half Biscuit are intelligent, funny and great songwriters. Whilst they have several excellent albums, this is a good place to start if you’re looking to.
9 out of 10. Almost perfect... Almost
Review by Luke Dunmore

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