Half Man Half Biscuit
Achtung Bono
Probe Plus

the tendency with Half Man Half Biscuit reviews over the years, and indeed any form of critical discussion concerning them, has been simply to quote a series of lyrics and song titles out of context, and go "Look! The funny!", wilfully ignoring that HMHB and Nigel Blackwell do not exist in a vacuum, and are one of the clearest examples of a reaction to and production of contemporary England. It's funny because, if you will, it's true. However, the reason this is the case is because it's so tempting to go straight to the money show with HMHB tracks when discussing them rather than bring up the surrounding issues, and indeed the music itself. In order to compensate these two approaches, the following is a "proper" review, with all manner of "opinions" and "critical evaluation," and in italics between each paragraph are the best lines. Like Jigga and Kels, we bring you the best of both worlds.

If you're gonna quote from the Book of Revelation / Don't go calling it the Book of Revelations / There's no "s", it's the "Book of Revelation" / As revealed to St John the Divine / See also Mary Hopkin / She must despair"

Half Man Half Biscuit frontman Nigel Blackwell is probably as representative a figure for working class lads of a certain age as you can get, the so-called "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?" generation that were borne into a mid 60s world where it had been decided for the first time that those outside of the ABC1 class bracket could receive a proper, "books and history" education, but were then not given any opportunity to go to university or get a decent job with this knowledge. So, brains full of trivia and a father telling them "You read too many books," most of these people went off to form pub quiz teams. Blackwell, on the other hand, went on to form the most effortless band in the history of British music.

The results of my lifetime are a string of 0-0s / Hey Blakey, does your bus go by the dark satanic mills? / If I was in CSNY, I'd be Stephen Stills

Effortless in that a) the band literally put no effort in, have never toured, never done a major interview, gone ten years without having their photo taken, and have never shown any desire to start fucking with that whole "paying the remotest bit of attention to the press" thing, and b) because they have now effortlessly remained at the top of their game for 20 years, and are somehow still putting out album of the year contenders each time they lay finger to plectrum and decide what pop cultural reference points have come out since the last album.

Belle Epoque sang "Black Is Black"? Yeah, well I sing "black is black is black is black is black

So Achtung Bono builds its base on the foundations of quiet resignation, annoyance, three-pint philosophers in your local, and those moments of absolute poetry you get walking around deserted council estates at 10pm. The inlay for the album consists of a series of bogus "letters to the editor" familiar to readers of "circulation of 1,000, readership of 8" local newspapers. And it's the same kind of opinionated indignation that fuels letters pages that fuels this entire album.

Oh help me Mrs Meddlicot, I don't know what to do/ I've only got three bullets and there's four of Motley Crue

Thus Pete Doherty gets taken down hardcore on "Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo", dedicated to the man's poor grasp of grammar and the weakness of The Libertines' second album. "CORGI Registered Friends" brings back that perennial classic of the HMHB ouvre, the "I hate the middle class track", and rails against men doing Del Boy impressions, and their wives' "giggling at Ann Summers' parties."

Last Wednesday I had tantric sex, and it was shit

In the same way that the best parts of Viz magazine are pretty indecipherable to anyone who has never tried to cure a hangover with a Gregg's steak bake, Half Man Half Biscuit will only make sense to you on a repeatedly enjoyable level if, for instance, you understand the line "I'm being sued by the firm More O'Ferrall". Trivia-laden music for trivia laden minds: ie, the British.

Car crime's low, the gun crime's lower, the town hall band CD- it's a grower. You never hear of folk getting knocked on the bounce, although there was a drive by shouting once

The tunes on the album themselves consist of the same move from their earlier angry young punks sound to their 2000s slightly less angry, slightly older and flabbier folk-rock annoyance. But that's irrelevant anyway, because the sole reason to listen to Half Man Half Biscuit has always been because that Nigel Blackwell is consistently one of the funniest men in the country, and its greatest living lyricist. Achtung Bono is simply another confirmation of this.

It's a cricketing farce with a thickening plot- Act 1, Scene 1: Brenda Blethyn gets shot

HMHB's most famous fan, John Peel, once noted that the problem with the NME was that "they think Slipknot matter". It's hard to think of a band that matter more than Half Man Half Biscuit. UK album of the year, by a landslide.

Spoiling good Friday, my true love sent to me:

12 drummers singing
11 chairmen dancing
10 mascots whinging
9 stewards flapping
8 christening invites
7 cows a-barking
6 vicars strumming
4 boring words
Carphone Warehouse and Matalan
And a pulled-up at Bangor-On-Dee

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2005-09-21
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