Half Man Half Biscuit, a name half remembered and half cherished. I can hardly call myself a hardcore fan, though there are a few 7”s and EPs filed away on my sagging shelves of vinyl. I think of their caustic and wry wit with a caustic and wry smile when I remember such alternative classics as ‘The Trumpton Riots’ and ‘Dickie Davies Eyes’. It would seem in amongst my musical meanderings since my evenings listening to John Peel on Radio 1, HMHB never went away and in fact continued to deliver their trademark sarcastic and entertaining indie/post punk sound in style, with new album ‘Urge for Offal’ only unleashed this month. When I saw a live date at Bilston’s The Robin 2 sandwiched between tribute acts I’d rather avoid, curiosity got the better of me. I’m glad to report that in this instance, the cat lived.
The evening kicked off with an entertaining and somewhat angry set from JD Meatyard. His was sans band this evening but still delivered a strong and engaging set of angsty alt folk protest songs. A little research reveals that JD has had several previous musical lives including roles in cult Peel favorites Levellers 5 and Calvin Party. A fine and appropriate way to set the scene for tonight’s headliners.
Half Man Half Biscuit take to the stage with little fanfare and indeed with an elusive guitar lead briefly stalling their opening number. Evidently comfortable with who they are and what they do, they feel little need for theatrics and instead opt for some banter and discussion of such issues as taking long short cuts on the way to the venue.
The set progresses in a convincing if not particularly frantic way and the assembled crowd are more than happy to join in for such tracks as ‘F**kin’ ‘Elll It’s Fred Titmus’. They know their craft and effortlessly lurch from old and recognisable to new and memorable numbers, demonstrating that the knack for darkly comedic lyrics and ultimately very catchy tunes ain’t going away any time soon. Towards the end of the main set they deliver my personal favourite track ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ which I didn’t manage to get out of my head for at least 4 days after the gig.
After a short break they return for an encore that includes a sterling version of ‘the Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’ from the Beatle’s curveball White album and of course the expected Trumpton Riots. Thoroughly good clean healthy fun. This punter had his curiosity satisfied and indeed wants to come back for more. It was also nice to see the average age of the concert goer surrounding me was about 50 (though there were also ‘young people’ around too). I felt reassuringly young and satisfied that there is more to life than watching England limp along to a 5-0 win against San Marino. I just need to wait until they can fit some more shows in around the fixtures for Tranmere Rovers….