Title: 90 Bisodol (Crimond)
Label: Probe Plus
All the elements of a Half Man Half Biscuit album are here: the play on words and the witty titles and songs about the things we actually talk most about: korfball, sellers of Betterware products, “Ross Kemp on Watership Down” and a “bothy on the Knoydart”, the last one being a reference to a peninsula in the western Highlands that’s only accessible by sea. And don’t we all talk to our mothers about the late English singer Kathleen Ferrier while dunking gingernuts into our tea? Maybe that’s just me then.
Like the late, legendary DJ John Peel, I love the Biscuits. They are a breed apart, leaders of a small clique of obscurantist artists delving into the minutae, the strangeness, the uniqueness of our 21st century lives. That group could include The Fall, I, Ludicrous, Sultans of Ping FC and others whose refusal to pander to traditional rock and pop subject matter centering around love, sex, money … and more love, sex and money.
As funny as their songs can be (who couldn’t help but chuckle to Rod Alive is Alive – Why or The Trumpton Riots?) there is a real politic among the biscuit tin, an anger against the mundanity of modern, pervasive culture and the descent of British culture towards a homogenised, more Americanised version that’s palatable to someone trying to flog the masses of their pennies. And even if Britishness, and whatever that entails, pervades the record, in a sense it is plausible to empathise with the clan if you’re in New Zealand or Vancouver.
Porky adores Joy of Leeuwarden (We Are Ready) which is bizarrely derived from a song written about the 2010 European Korfball Championships in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Nigel Blackwell uses the narrative style he’s used to good effect on previous albums, on Descent of the Stiperstones, to describe a meeting a dullard has with a former Coronation Street star.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to resist fast-forwarding the utterly pointless L’enfer C’est Les Autres, which is actually sung in English, and Blackwell’s dark tale of The Coroner’s Footnote is less appealing than it sounds with a monotonous drone.
Title: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Label: Sour Mash records
Tell me more: Everybody and his midget lover knows Noel was the true talent in Oasis, the driving force, the songwriter, the organiser, the one who did the thoughtful interviews etc etc. Maybe Beady Eye has scuppered that view. This is Noel’s official debut, following a live album two years ago as well as numerous worthy guest appearances on other people’s records.
The Lowdown: Without the constraints of the rock beast that was Oasis, Gallagher is free to develop his own niche, though whether he allows himself enough of a leash is a moot point, with some tracks retaining the stadium expansiveness of his former band. This is most obvious on the opener, Everybody’s On The Run, which may be a continuation of his past work but as a statement of intent it is quite impressive. I’m sometimes left with the feeling that Gallagher is regenerating back into Morning Glory, rather than experimenting enough but there are moments that make you realise the Mancunian is one of the industry’s characters, and of course an immense talent. That’s evident on the edgy (Stranding on a Beach) and in the overall lyrics, which resonate with a love of life, but also an acknowledgement of how tough it can be: “Hard times – life is getting faster/ And no one has the answer/ I try to face the day down in a new way/ At the bottom of a bottle,” from The Death of You And Me, for example. And,finally, there is Stop the Clocks, a track that’s been bootlegged like crazy over the past decade, but never felt appropriate for Oasis. I would agree on that count, but its beautiful easiness (until 4.15 that is when it goes off on a tangent) is well suited to High Flying Birds.
Title: D Is For W
Label: Tea Vee Eye
Tell me more: Not a nu-metal band as name might suggest but they do have a bit of a rockist history as Andy Huxley was the former songwriter and guitarist for The 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, who were as woeful as their name suggests. Has Huxley learned from that, ahem, disaster?
The Lowdown: D is For W comes across as made by Captain Beefheart fans who have recently found out about bonkers English band The Cardiacs. That’s admirable influences, but
I’m not quite sure what the Imbeciles are attempting here, and I’m not entirely sure if the band themselves know. One reviewer felt a Vile Imbeciles record required a goodly number of listens to ‘get it’ but this has been on the stereo a few times I’m as bemused and irritated as I was when I put it on first. It has a broad range of ideas, but the band can’t blend them together. Apathetic Innocence is a stodgy funked-up number that Prince would pass on to his favourite enemy, Bitches Kisses falters at the starting blocks and finishes 10 seconds behind the sprinter from Equatorial Guinea, while It Makes You Sad is a jam session led by the drummer’s three-year-old daughter. Okay, let’s move on.
Title: JD Meatyard
Label: Probe Plus
Tell me more: Meatyard was once part of Calvin Party, which he admits “some people liked and some didn’t”. It would be fairer to say most people didn’t know about them but John Peel certainly did and played them regularly.
The Lowdown: Nice to see Probe Plus putting out a few releases with label head Geoff Davies also releasing an album by Lovecraft recently; sadly time and space prevents Porky from reviewing that one. This self-titled album is a largely acoustic album without as much turnip as Porky would like, but we find the energetic Myspace Star very amenable, especially for the opening lines: “Fifty-thousand pictures of my mouth wide open, my mouth wide open, a fag in my hand; I’m a star, we’re all stars, Myspace stars.”
Here’s a video that will give you a better idea of what they’re like.