They’re one of our greatest bands - because of all that, not despite it. And this is a suitably great record.Our Latitude review remembers They Might Be Giants slightly resignedly announcing that they were about to play a new song – another of their wacky songs about death and misery. Half Man Half Biscuit share more than you might think with TMBG (not least an unwieldy moniker). But of course, they come from a completely different cultural context. Are there any bands more British? A cloud of greyness hangs over their bitter humour, minor gripes taken to an extreme. Murder and death run through their tunes as if through a misspelled reject stick of rock. There are slightly fewer of their inspired rants here, but they still nail the dislocation felt by those from a working class background discovering that they are firmly stuck amid the middle classes, refusing to engage with their new idiot peers, but equally unable to go back. They wring real pathos and despair out of their trademark references to obscure celebrity (although TV has long since trumped them in celebrating the nonentity). On Descent of the Stiperstones they even peel back the comic nostalgia by having a Crossroads actress not only embrace the nostalgic fuzz, but take it to sinister extremes in a bizarrely detailed fantasy.
All this is true. But when you stare too long into Half Man Half Biscuit’s abyss, it stares back into you. And what does it say? It says “lighten up tosser, this is Half Man Half Biscuit”. Yeah, they reflect back your life at you, but you know that it isn’t that grim and neither is theirs. For all that they paint in shades of grey, they aren’t Sartre or even Ken Loach. They are a comedy band. They’re taking the piss out of themselves and you as much as anything. They do observational humour, even if taken to ludicrous extremes (then again who hasn’t had the sort of extended fantasy exchange about people failing to cede ground on the pavement?). Necrophilia is essentially a comedy topic. Their random digs at Jim Beglin are just for the pleasure of it. They make enjoyably crap puns on Johnny Cash lyrics. They make a none-more-corny segue from the Wedding March to the Funeral March. They even do a song of dubious provenance about Korfball (a sport I all too narrowly avoided in my past - the flat I shared with several members of the England team a few years ago having played host to a fair proportion of their Dutch counterparts). None of that in any way lessens them. They’re one of our greatest bands - because of all that, not despite it. And this is a suitably great record.
This article trudged its weary way from www.soundsxp.com home to all manner of half-arsed music views