Another start-to-finish showcase of rare genius.
Luke Slater 2011
It would not be correct to say that Half Man Half Biscuit have been unfairly maligned, but more accurate to state they’ve not been taken as seriously as their oeuvre deserves, and often dismissed off-hand. Returning with the obtusely named 90 Bisodol (Crimond), they have produced their most polished-sounding record so far – the ballad of a lover scorned that is RSVP even includes choral backing vocals and a string section, of sorts. But really, though, nobody listens to this for that sort of thing.
Darkness frequently abounds in frontman Nigel Blackwell's grim humour, and again this is never far from the forefront of proceedings on this 12th studio collection. The instances are too many to mention individually, but Excavating Rita – the story of a borderline necrophiliac Betterware salesman – is a notable one, as is The Coroner's Footnote. Still, there's also an inherent lightness in much of the content, with the springy Joy in Leeuwarden (We Are Ready) being perhaps the only song ever written about korfball.
As far as the canon of Half Man Half Biscuit ranting monologues go, there are two here which can be added to an already impressive list. Descent of the Stiperstones details an encounter with Crossroads actor Lynette McMorrough at a Montgomery chandlers, all atop a slow-moving but rigid bassline. Album closer and post-punk rumble Rock and Roll Is Full of Bad Wools is a cascade of scorn poured upon, amongst other things, clueless indie groups on Saturday morning Soccer shows ("But then disastrously / They ask him casually / You come from Leigh-on-Sea / Do you ever get to Roots Hall? / Which to him means f*** all"), and dreadful cover bands with names like Curry Night.
For years Half Man Half Biscuit have inhabited a spot where nobody else could possibly reside and here is another album full of acerbic, speckless tracts on the small things which rankle most, poetically assessing the state of a nation's mind. It seems unlikely that they'll be budged. What is more is that 90 Bisodol (Crimond) might be Blackwell and company's most consistently brilliant work yet in every aspect, and another start-to-finish showcase of rare genius.