Authentic Celtic Band

It’s December tomorrow and, unavoidably, the start of advent. Half Man Half Biscuit have a line for most occasions and today’s is from 2009’s Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo’ (the owner of the limb in question is pictured above, either Pete Doherty or Carl Barat, or both). Nigel Blackwell takes them to task for many things, not least this-

‘Advent on the high street
I point and sing
Busk when it’s Christmas
You only busk when it’s Christmas’

Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo

Achtung Bono, the album this song is from, is peak HMHB. Every song, all fourteen of them, is a laugh out loud funny, damning indictment of modern life. In Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo Nigel Blackwell deals with The Libertines-

‘I could have put my head in a bucket full of porridge
And moaned about the hospital parking scheme
I would have saved fourteen pounds
That I just splashed out on your second album
For that’s what it’s akin to
And furthermore
You’ve got a shit arm, and that’s a bad tattoo’

The word ‘furthermore’ isn’t used enough in popular music.

Then he takes to task people who put the letter S onto the end of the Book Of Revelation (and those who do the same to Mary Hopkin). Unfortunately Pete and Carl do this in What A Waster-

‘When she wakes up in the morning
She writes down all her dreams
Reads like the Book of Revelations
Or the Beano or the unabridged Ulysses.’
Just before the guitar solo he sings ‘authentic Celtic band’. I’ve always assumed this is also a tattoo reference but it could be a musical group I suppose.
No Christmas songs here, not yet anyway.

You Been Running Round The Race Track

I’ll stop wittering on about Italy now (although I can’t promise I won’t post more photographs in the future). I found this picture on the internet a few weeks ago and it seemed to good not to use- everything about it is wonderful, from the psychedelic font to the photo and the lad’s expression to the strapline and the other story above the masthead.

This is one of the most Madchester songs, a celebration of complete hedonism through the lyrical lens of Shaun William Ryder and the twisted guitar funk of Happy Mondays. As Shaun puts it ‘Why don’t you join in with the 24 hour party people, plastic face can’t smile, white out?’

24 Hour Party People

The bard of Birkenhead, Nigel Blackwell, used it as starting point for his lament for those poor souls working in the all night garage. Opening with the unforgettable lines ‘I fancy I’ll open a stationers, stock quaint notepads for weekend pagans, while you were out at the Rollright Stones I came and set fire to your shed’ Nigel goes on to describe the tormenting of the all night garage employee, sending him round the shop looking for ever more obscure articles to buy- 2 Scotch eggs and a jar of Marmite, 10 Kit Kats and a motoring atlas, a blues cd on the Hallmark label- before finishing with a diversion into the pines.

Twenty Four Hour Garage People

Alehouse Futsal

There’s a new Half Man Half Biscuit album out today, always a cause of celebration. The lead track Alehouse Futsal appeared online a few weeks ago. It’s business as usual lyrically, that is, moments of laugh out loud genius punctuated with insight and references to popular culture and history…

‘Your softly spoken friends
Their fortnight in the Fens
Your time slip stories I avow
Are boring the arse off me now
I’m gonna put up a wall in your through lounge
My animosity knows no bounds
I’m gonna give you alehouse futsal’

And this part from the middle eight…

‘Picnics with craft beer
Elbow in Delamere
Your brand new 10K PB
Haile Gebrselassie’

No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fucking Hedge Cut is out today, available from Probe Plus. I am especially looking forward to the songs Man Of Constant Sorrow (With A Garage In Constant Use) and Knobheads On Quiz Shows.

Run Run

A friend posted this tune on social media yesterday. I could place the title but not how it went. A lot of Bandulu’s mid 90s techno worked very well at the time but does sound, two decades later, very thump-thump-thump techno. Bandulu were also capable of moments of ambient magic and Run Run is one of them, a righteous piece of ambient dub from their 1994 ep Presence (and 1994 album Antimatters) with a vocal from John O’Connell. The dub swirls and storm clouds gather. A piano fades in and out. Smoke bubbles. Half time, off beat rhythm. Seven minutes where all is good.

Run Run

The picture was taken on a visit the other weekend to Mellor, in the hills above Stockport. I read a reference to an iron age hill fort and burial mound up there, out beyond Marple Bridge but before you get to New Mills (Half Man Half Biscuit once told us ‘No frills, handy for the hills, that’s the way you spell New Mills’ and this caused some excitement when we detoured through it, as you can imagine). The photo was taken within the boundary of the hill fort, partially excavated, looking back towards Manchester. You can see for miles, way beyond the city and out to Cheshire and Merseyside. A 5 minute drive away, down the dip and up again, is the field where the barrow is (sadly on private land so not accessible but visible). We stood on the hillside looking at the same landscape, give or take a large city, that local people 10, 000 years ago would have been looking at.

There’s No Sense In Trying

Factory Friday, in response to Dirk, The Swede and others and because it could be fun. Crispy Ambulance signed to Factory in 1980. I was going to post Deaf but I’ve done it before (years ago admittedly and it is a great song). Dirk mentioned The Presence so I’ve gone for that, all thirteen minutes of it. At first listen you should be able to spot Martin Hannett’s unmistakeable production. Singer Alan Hempsall intones over a proper post-punk sound- gloomy maybe, grey raincoats possibly but with a brightness too.

The Presence

The Presence was the A-side of Live On A Hot August Night, released on Factory Benelux in June 1981. You can fit all of Crispy Ambulance’s back catalogue onto one compact disc and I think you probably should. After signing Crispy Ambulance and failing to sell them in any decent quantities Tony Wilson declared ‘no more bands with stupid names’. Then he signed Stockholm Monsters. Factory’s failure to sell records in the first half of the 80s by anyone except New Order may have had more to do with their refusal to use pluggers. Or buy advertising. But we wouldn’t have it any other way would we? Crispy Ambulance are also immortalised in Half Man Half Biscuit’s epic account of shit gigs and band rivalries.

Running Order Squabble Fest

Dickie Davies Eyes

I read welcome news at the weekend- Half Man Half Biscuit have a new album out in October. Rejoice.

In 1986 they released the single Dickie Davies Eyes, an absolute HMHB masterclass. Led by organ and building slowly  from the opening line you know you’re in for a good ride- ‘mention the Lord of the Rings just once more and I’ll more than likely kill you’. Nigel Blackwell goes on to marry together Roger Dean posters, snot disposal, Brian Moore’s head and London Planetarium, a wok, Cadbury’s Flake and oral sex, Michael Moorcock (‘Moorcock, Moorcock, Michael Moorcock you fervently moan’) and ‘a Romany bint in a field with her paints suggesting we faint at her beauty’.

But she’s got Dickie Davies Eyes.

Dickie  Davies Eyes

You Call Glastonbury Glasto…

…You’d like to go there someday
When they’ve put up the gun towers
To keep the hippies away.

So said Half Man Half Biscuit’s Nigel Blackwell and judging by the bits I’ve seen on the telly this weekend it looks like it’s happened. Most of the footage made Glastonbury look like a gap year training camp.

I saw a couple of highlights along with some shockers (Metallica- how much could you stand? I managed 93 seconds). I think the girls won.

M.I.A. resplendent in gold and with a whole forward line of rappers and singers blowing it up on Friday night. That sample from Straight To Hell and those gunshots and cash registers clanging out over rural Somerset are hard to beat.

Edit: This video, uploaded by the BBC onto their own Youtube channel, has now been removed by themselves. Apparently someone was wearing a t-shirt with a political slogan they don’t like. No to censorship, yeah? Last night there was still 20 minutes worth of her set at their own website– confusing huh? Paper Planes starts around  13 minutes in.

The day after Warpaint brought their dreamy, bass led groove to the fields. Their album is sounding good again after a month or two away from it. You have to stop looking for the songs and let their sound wash over you.

Goldfrapp, strobe-lit and black clad, a sexy electro-glam stomp.

I also watched Blondie doing Atomic at some point while reading the paper on Saturday morning. I am sorry to report it was dreadful.