Editor's Rating

"Ground control to Monty Don."

8.5

Fourteen albums in, and those who have not followed their thirty four year career might expect Half Man Half Biscuit to be showing signs of cultural irrelevancy. That is to miss the point of Half Man Half Biscuit though. For nearly three and a half decades Nigel Blackwell and his loyal opposite number Neil Crossley have been holding up a mirror to culture in all its forms, taking the pulse of an ailing nation and issuing albums every few years which give state of the nation addresses to a small but loyal fanbase. True, while Grime is undeniably the most thrilling culturally relevant musical movement for today’s youth, those of us pushing 40 and upwards will find Blackwell’s lyrics throughout the unwieldily titled No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut to be a painfully relatable.

No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut could well be the grumpiest Half Man Half Biscuit album to date, which given the state of the world today, is absolutely understandable. While 2014’s Urge for Offal took a steer towards slightly louder guitars, No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut again finds Blackwell and Crossley turning the amps up, but this time with lengthier instrumental sections than has been traditional on Half Man Half Biscuit albums so far.

Blackwell’s cultural references on No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut remain as sharp as ever, with the roaring guitars of “Knobheads on Quiz Shows” married to appropriately withering lyrics about the subjects of the song title, with Blackwell’s regard for daytime television once again paying dividends. Elsewhere the relentless rhythm of “Bladderwrack Allowance” details the awkwardness of having to socialise with the partner of your other half’s best friend with whom you have nothing in common, while they themselves have headed out to have a far better time than you’re having. No one else writes songs about everday truths like this [Edit – Not even Nigel Blackwell it seems. After a week it has become apparent that “Bladderwrack Allowance” is aimed at an individual who has been dragged along to a gig on a first date and it really isn’t their thing. One of the joys of Blackwell’s lyrics is that sometimes your perception of what he is singing about can shift dramatically, hinging on your understanding of one single line suddenly becoming clearer]. Indeed, while the punk thrash of the second half of “Renfield’s Afoot” recalls “Trumpton Riots”, it details the bafflement of a local man coming across an advert for a community nightwalk in his local woodland, when he himself feels that he should be able to walk through the wood at all hours of the night without the need to make prior appointments. Yeah, it’s fair to say that Blackwell remains a unqiue lyricist, regardless of how much the increase of guitars, distorted bass rumble, and Blackwell’s vocals at a slightly odd level in the mix contribute to a more claustrophobic sound.

One of the things that has always marked out Blackell’s lyrics is the fact that he has always managed to make deeply cutting observations without the need for much in the way of swearing, yet here on No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut, there’s a distinct increase in the use of bad language, and the general feeling that Blackwell is a measure more aggravated than usual. While Urge for Offal might have been one of the most accessible Half Man Half Biscuit albums for the newcomer, the same cannot be said for No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut, which may very well have been an intentional move, with Blackwell and Crossley taking note that their previous two studio albums had actually charted – drastic times for an act who once explained their split in the late 80s as down Blackwell not wanting to miss too much daytime television. No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut is a dense affair that takes multiple plays before the listener starts to get their head around it. With time songs like “Man of Constant Sorrow (With a Garage in Constant Use)” and “Swerving the Checkatrade” eventually start to reveal themselves as every bit as good as anything Blackwell has penned in recent years, though it is “Every Time a Bell Rings” and the guitar blast of “Mod. Diff Vdiff. Hard Severe” which have catapulted themselves to the fore as my personal favourite moments on No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut.

Signed to the tiny Probe Plus label since their 1985 debut, Half Man Half Biscuit remain a rare tale of fidelity in the music business. Probe Plus founder Geoff Davies apparently puts no pressure on the band to put out product, with the band only entering the studio when Blackwell has penned enough material for an album. This has gone a long way to ensure that Half Man Half Biscuit have a level of quality control that makes the majority of acts look half-arsed, and despite a distinct change in tone on this album, HMHB’s ludicrously lengthy streak of top draw releases only continues with No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut. There is simply no question of Half Man Half Biscuit forgetting where they came from (they’ve never left), or completely re-imagining their sound to remain relevant (to be Half Man Half Biscuit is to be relevant). Theirs is the sound of a population despairing at the country’s own stupidity, of getting distracted by the minutiae of the everyday, of just getting your head down and getting on with shit. No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut is the sound of personal discontent and resignation. It is the sound of Half Man Half Biscuit remaining unswervingly culturally relevant. It is the sound of life today.