Unlike a lot of bands Half Man Half Biscuit don't have to cope with certain pressures and expectations. They don't have to worry if their latest album doesn't climb up the charts because they've hardly ever featured in them anyway, and they certainly don't care if their songs don't get played on the radio, since daytime playlist compilers don't take kindly to songs entitled things like 'Joy Division Oven Gloves' and 'Deep House Victims Minibus Appeal'. So it's business as usual in 2011 as they release their 12th album '90 Bisodol (Crimond)', which is as always a barrel of laughs, peppered with grim humour, catchy melodies and an epic amount of pisstaking.
Brilliantly titled opener 'Something's Rotten In The Back Of Iceland' is a punk rock song detailing "urban concerns", one of those urban concerns being the eternal worry of putting "the wrong things in the wrong bin again". Meanwhile 'RSVP' is an unexpectedly tender affair which is most charming until you catch on to the lyrics about someone who goes to their ex lover's wedding reception to poison all the guests. 'Tommy Walsh's Eco House' is a quirky, bouncy number that comes with bizarre lyrics about Ross Kemp in 'Watership Down' and jumping off the roof of the Dignitas suicide clinic, while 'Joy In Leewarden' is an enjoyable ode to a European korfball tournament where there are "top players" and others who "are just a crock of shit".
'Excavating Rita' begins in a most alluring way and like 'RSVP' is full of sweet charms. But that's until you realise that the attractive melody is providing the backdrop to a story about a necrophiliac Betterware salesman. Lovely. Elsewhere there's playful acoustic strumming and petty complaints about false advertisement on 'Fun Day In The Park', and 'Descent Of The Stiperstones' which begins with what almost sounds like a Mark E Smith impression before slipping into a long tale about a strange shopping trip which involves many random events, including an encounter with a former daytime TV soap actress.
'Left Lyrics In The Practise Room' is an upbeat rock n roll number about desperate indie wannabes, while 'L'Enfer C'est Les Autres' is a sarcastic rant at people who don't walk the pavement in single file. 'Fix It So She Dreams Of Me' contains a truly genius rhyming couplet: "there's a girl I'm told who rolls her eyes at the Gok Wan acolytes. And underneath her bed there lies a collection of ammonites". Priceless. The tune itself is reminiscent of 'Help'-era Beatles meeting The Pogues, and provides the album with one of its musical and lyrical highlights. As does 'The Coroner's Footnote', a 'Wild Rover'-esque strum about a heartbroken young man who throws himself onto the rail tracks without sparing "a thought for the poor bastard driving the train". The album concludes with 'Rock N Roll Is Full Of Bad Wools', which takes the piss out of indie bands who guest on Saturday morning football shows, as well as digging into terrible cover bands who play in pubs.
John Peel was a huge Half Man Half Biscuit fan, and if he was still around to hear '90 Bisodol' I bet he'd be having a good chuckle. If you buy this record you'll not only have a laugh but also encounter a collection of catchy singalongs that may pop up in your head from time to time. Overall this an album that leaves you feeling glad that HMHB haven't changed their ways. 8