Not long now before lollypop men are called Darren!
Sometimes you stumble upon a band like Half Man Half Biscuit and you get a strange feeling wash over you. ‘CSI:Ambleside’ is the band’s eleventh album, and if you check out the band’s website (they are too experienced and mature for a Myspace page) you can have a journey through their history and more interestingly the slowly vanishing hairline of lead singer Nigel Blackwell. I suspect that is a story in itself (sorry Nigel).
I guess the best way to describe HMHB is that they are a little like The Lancashire Hotpots in the simply constructed, and highly amusing songs, like the opener, ‘Evening Of Swing (Has Been Cancelled)’ and the even better, ‘Bad Losers On Yahoo! Chess’ with the latter being exactly about what the title would suggest. This is a bit like Brit Rock from the mid 90’s but with amusing lyrics. So whereas the Liam Gallagher’s of this world are taking themselves too seriously, Shaun Ryder is searching for a new substance that he’s not yet put into his system, and the rest have introduced synthesizers and ladies (yes, I know shocking!), Half Man Half Biscuit remain real never more happier than when they are taking the piss out of themselves.
Now, ‘Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show’ has a heavy bassline, and it’s almost like a rural country band having a stab at Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s a song that even my poetic take on things cannot do justice to. so this song that has to be listened to, in order to be fully appreciated. ‘Ode To Joyce’ is a nice little song that is catchy and is pure raw rock in the fact that it almost sounds live in the recording, and don’t get me wrong this actually adds a lot to it, injecting some soul into the underlining rock’n’roll, and I guess you would even call this a love song…
We have a cascade of harmonies in the confessional song, ‘Blue Badge Abuser’, another simple song about the benefits of parking in the disabled parking spaces. Then we have the interesting song in, ‘Totnes Bickering Fair’ which borders on an organically raw version of The Vandals, and includes such lyrics as, “I’m gonna feed our children non-organic food / I’m gonna feed our children non-organic food // I’m gonna feed our children non-organic food // And with the money saved…//… take ‘em to the zoo!” Along with the verse of, “You quoted Goldman incorrectly as we strolled // Your stab at solar heating just left me cold // I want a sun tan, not Vashti Bunyan // Therefore henceforth”, before the abstract last line of, “Not long now before lollipop men are called Darren!”
‘King Of Hi’Vi’s” has a slight ‘60’s feel to it, whereas the aptly titled, ‘Lord Hereford’s Knob’ is a jolly acoustic, and almost Irish song with Benny Hill lyrics, like the chorus of “That’s why tonight I’m sitting // on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob!” English humour at it’s best. ‘He’s On The Roids’ left me a bit bemused, but not quite as much as, ‘Petty Sessions’ which has amusing lyrics sung along to tune of ‘Do The Hockey-Cokey’…Yes, really.
There is an injection of sun-kissed ‘60’s melodic Indie-Rock which instantly makes you happy in, ‘Little In The Way Of Sunshine’ which is ironic as the song is about how there is nothing particularly good on the horizon. However it does include such great slices of observations like, “If you look carefully in the background of the scream // the couple on the bridge are both Robson Green…”. This leads to the great and high tempo ‘Give Us Bubble Wrap’ before last song, ‘National Shite Day’ which could easily have been written and recorded by Davey MacManus of The Crimea. It’s basically poetical observations to music, and a very fitting end to the album.
Now musically Half man Half Biscuit are not anything particularly new and I might even go as far as saying that they are not musically brilliant. But it is worth noting that this is not what they are trying to achieve. What they want (I’d wager) is to write memorable songs that are well thought out and amusing - and they succeed here every time. Yes, this could be an album that once you’ve heard the jokes a few times over, you may wish that there was some musical substance to back it up, but the bottom line is that this is still a highly entertaining album, and I wonder why I’ve never heard of them before?