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Half Man Half Biscuit: Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral

Album Notes

Despite the Liverpool connection, Half Man Half Biscuit rarely referenced the Beatles other than in the title of their first album, Back in the DHSS. When a band's favorite pop culture touchstones include Benny Hill sidekick Bob Todd, the Beatles are somehow just too obvious. And yet, a statue in Liverpool's Mathew Street, near the site of the legendary Cavern Club but not looking too much like the Beatles in fear of allegations of copyright infringement, was clearly ugly enough to make a tempting target, so HMHB borrowed the statue's name and that of their home district to title their sixth album. For the first time in their career, Half Man Half Biscuit released this album within one calendar year of its predecessor, 1997's Voyage to the Bottom of the Road (six years had elapsed between their first and second, and consistently after that, the band was on an every-two-years release schedule), and perhaps that accounts for the somewhat lackluster feel. Though Nigel Blackwell's pop-culture-riffing lyrics are as clever as ever (see "Four Skinny Indie Kids" and "Secret Gig" for particularly ace bits of scene-skewering), the musical emphasis this time is on the band's noisy guitar pop songs as opposed to the predominantly acoustic folk sound that permeated the previous album, and even die-hard fans might feel like they've heard these japes before. In this context, folk tunes like "Multitude" and "A Country Practice" sound slightly out of place. (Perhaps the answer might have been to release the two albums with the indie pop tunes on one and the folk-rock experiments on the other?) Regardless, there is enough of interest here to appeal to the converted, but newcomers should perhaps start elsewhere. ~ Stewart Mason


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