‘At DFS a job I have landed
But I don’t get paid for the first five years…’
If that raises a smile you could be a potential fan of the cult national treasure that is Half Man Half Biscuit. They arrived on stage to the sounds of ‘Summer Is A-Comen In’ from the film The Wicker Man, a tribute to recently deceased actor Christopher Lee and as soon as they started it was clear that The Apex was a fine venue for their show, with good sound quality allowing the words to be heard.
Frontman Nigel Blackwell continues to explore the lyrical backwoods of living in small towns, daytime TV, musical trends, forgotten celebrities and one-time sports stars. His surreal narratives combine astute observations, rants, jokes, absurd wordplay and almost unintentionally end up as social documents of the minutiae of life not recorded elsewhere.
Sometimes more serious subjects are filtered through the same process and make statements about unemployment (‘Turned Up, Clocked On, Laid Off’), mental illness (‘Used To Be In Evil Gazebo’) and death (‘When The Evening Sun Goes Down’). Of course there are the ‘love songs’, she always leaves (with featureless TV Producer Steve… in ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’), or is missing and renders all else pointless (‘For What is Chatteris…’) or there are relationship misunderstandings (‘My Outstretched Arms’).
And there is much much more; celebrate the delights of Korfball in ‘Joy in Leeuwarden’, experience the insomnia of ‘Restless Legs’, recall that BBC 6Music was nearly closed down if it hadn’t been for the campaigning anthem ‘Joy Division Oven Gloves’ and of course relive the anticipation and disappointments of ‘All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’.
In the two hour show early songs from ‘Back In the DHSS’ (their first album and John Peel favourite) went down a storm, as did the newest tracks from current album ‘Urge For Offal’ but their back catalogue is so rich there was plenty else they could have included.
Its not just the words and wit, they are not to be underestimated musically. As a live outfit they are a taut, noisy post-punk riot of guitars, drums and grinding bass. Between songs Nigel holds the crowd with tall tales and reminiscence, handing out luxury backstage crisps and getting the front row to decipher a fake setlist. He is a likeable bloke and clearly still enjoys performing and meeting his audience. It was a brilliant show; they play dates now and then instead of long tours, probably a very civilized way to be?
All together now…
‘For you I’d lose my self-esteem
For you I’d lose my self-esteem
For Crewe I’d use Junction 16…’