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CSI: Ambleside by Half Man Half Biscuit

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Reviewed on 8th June 2008.


CSI: Ambleside

By Half Man Half Biscuit

Reviewing Half Man Half Biscuit has to be one of the most difficult tasks I have ever taken on. They are brilliant, with sharp witted lyrics and feet tapping riffs. But would the average reader like them? The answer I came to was, mournfully, no. This led me to ask myself whether it was the band's problem or is it the casual listener's fault for not being able to pick up on the fucking hilarious lyrics? And after over twenty years of purveying music, who am I to tell the Birkenhead four-piece how to do their job? I can only assume that the reason Half Man Half Biscuit don't sell more records is because they don't want to.

CSI: Ambleside, the new album, is no new departure from anything they have released since their inception. This much is admitted in their self-depreciative press release promising that their "tuneless caterwaul" and "mostly filler no killer approach" won't win them "any new friends". The album cuts straight to the point. Opener, Evening of Swing (Has Been Cancelled) tears into the middle class and their "charmless associates in a stretch limousine" as Nigel Blackwell's vocals, which would be described as Pogues-esque if they hadn't been around for as long as each other, urge "a storm (to) break over Henman Hill". The album continues in a similar vein with songs about problem chimps, Yahoo Chess and "a girl called Joyce". The album seems to run out of steam towards the middle, although Totnes Bickering Fair's threat to "feed our children non-organic food" has surely alienated any potential Guardian-reading fans. The album comes alive again with Petty Sessions. Borrowing its riff heavily from the Oakey-Cokey, Blackwell perfectly captures the voice of those lonely souls who "like an altercation with a member of staff" because "that's not how I'd spell Hawaiian". Album highlight, Little in the Way of Sunshine, follows with tales of the foibles of bus drivers ("Tony drives the 41, no vinegar, just salt"). The album closes with the epic National Shite Day which explores the bitterness of normal life. And that is Half Man Half Biscuit's trick you see. They hold a mirror up to everyday life and distort it, answering questions you never thought of asking along the way.



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