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Album Review

Half Man Half Biscuit is the sort of band that develops a mythology around it. Some myths are demonstrably false, like leader Nigel Blackwell's insistence that there is a thriving HMHB tribute band called "It Ain't Half Man, Mum!" Some have a kernel of truth, such as the story that the band rejected a prestigious slot on the weekly TV countdown show Top of the Pops because they already had tickets to a Tranmere Rovers game. And some you just hope are true because they're so perfect, such as the story that Blackwell broke up the band in late 1986 because their increasing success was interfering with his daytime television habits. For whatever reason, Half Man Half Biscuit did split up (temporarily) at the end of 1986, releasing a singles-and-strays compilation called Back Again in the D.H.S.S. as a farewell offering. (The double-punning title referenced not only the Beatles pun of their debut album Back in the D.H.S.S., but the fact that the end of the band meant its members were once again unemployed and therefore at the mercy of the government's Department of Health and Social Security, the folks who handed out unemployment checks.) When the band ramped up again three years later, their label Probe Plus released their first CD (hence the title), a slightly rejiggered and greatly expanded version of the vinyl Back Again in the D.H.S.S.. Several changes were made: the 1985 John Peel version of "All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit" and the 7" remix of debut single "The Trumpton Riots" were dropped, and the previously unreleased "Carry on Cremating" was added, along with eight live tracks from 1986 including fan favorites like "Architecture and Morality and Ted and Alice," "Time Flies By (When You're the Driver of a Train)" and "F****n' 'Ell, It's Fred Titmus." Of the songs common to both vinyl and CD, several are essential HMHB tracks, including both sides of the band's second single, "Dickie Davies Eyes" (a withering attack on those nostalgic for the '70s, with the canonical chorus "All of those people who you romantically like to believe are still alive are dead/So I wipe my snot on the arm of your chair as you put another Roger Dean poster on the wall") and possibly the band's most utterly hilarious song, "The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman," about the horrors of discovering that your real dad is the guy who sang the weedy '70s pop hit "Ariel." Other highlights include "Arthur's Farm," which makes good use of the chorus hook from the Jam's "Eton Rifles" transformed into Simon Blackwell's synth riff, and the jaunty "D'Ye Ken Ted Moult," which mutates the old English ballad "D'Ye Ken John Peel" (from which a certain radio host named John Ravenscroft took his microphone name) into a celebration of a then-current series of TV ads for a brand of double-glazed windows. That level of multi-layered pop culture references and wordplay is exactly what the band's fans love about Half Man Half Biscuit, and the combination of ACD and the expanded CD reissue Back in the DHSS/The Trumpton Riots gives listeners almost everything the original 1984-1986 incarnation ever recorded.


Formed: 1984

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

The acerbic post-punk outfit Half Man Half Biscuit was formed in Birkenhead, England in 1984 by singer/guitarist Nigel Blackwell, his guitarist brother Si, bassist Neil Crossley, and drummer Paul Wright. While still languishing in relative obscurity, they entered the studio in 1985 to record their debut LP, Back in the D.H.S.S. Upon its release, the five-piece swiftly became known for their razor-sharp, biting, lyrical content, and they also earned the endorsement of venerable DJ John Peel. The album...
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ACD, Half Man Half Biscuit
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