All of our songs sound the same

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful

My husband likes it. I think it’s s***e.

By ******** ****** on 25 Nov. 2013

Format: Audio CD

The music is very basic. They keep singing about people I’ve never heard of. When I say singing I’m not sure you could really call it singing. My family and I have had to listen to this album for hours on end driving through France on holiday.

We are getting sick of it, but it does give my husband endless pleasure. He laughs a lot and tries to get us to sing with him. We sometimes do, it is catchy in a football chant sort of way, but I do feel a little bit sick and empty afterwards. [1]

More than Anne Briggs, Ian Dury and Queen, who I’m a massive fan of, this makes me think of Englishness… The song seems over-clever and flippant, but it’s bitter and very funny, which is very English: pathos disguised by wit and emotional detachment. It’s like a camera flying over the country, zooming in and out; like watching a film of England.” – Eliza Carthy

The difference between us and all the other bands… is that we’re different”

Girlfriend’s Finished With Him, HMHB

Somewhere between these reviews lives the reality of Half Man Half Biscuit, a band so quixotically different that their gig advert notes it would be imperative to invent them if they did not already exist.

Ben Myers described Half Man Half Biscuit as lyrically “iconoclastic in their total avoidance of cliche”. Writing anything about them is in inherent danger of breaking this standard, so I offer only three thoughts:


It is not possible to “quite like” HMHB. Like the first review, you either get them or you don’t. If you don’t, nothing will save them; if you do, you will start seeing Perpetual Biscuit References (PBRs) everywhere. I have only had the High Fidelity experience of having an independent record shop employee approve of my purchase once in my life. It was when buying a HMHB album in Oxfordshire and it was so extreme that I had trouble escaping the conversation. Admittedly, I had showed that I understood the reference to an early HMHB song that the employee made but I still did not expect this to mean that I was still standing there some time later listening to the finer details of HMHB’s manager’s approach to t-shirt sales at their last gig whilst looking meaningfully at my watch.


I’ve only been to one HMHB gig. It was not exactly a standard gig experience. For a start, I could easily look down the road outside the venue and accurately pick out everyone going to the same gig as me (and it wasn’t just the Dukla Prague Away kits). At times, it was possible that the audience knew the words better than the band. They started the gig with “When the evening sun goes down,” which has the best opening lines of any song at a gig (“I shout all my obscenities from steeples/but please don’t label me a madman”[2]). They had a new album out but played no songs from it until the encore, at which point they sang two new songs to rapturous applause and then became the only gig I’ve ever attended to end with a perfect rendition of Calon Lân. (Note: If I ever become ruler of the world, this is how all gigs will be mandated to end.)


As the a to z of Half Man Half Biscuit proudly notes, there is no HMHB Greatest Hits. There is probably no band in existence less likely to issue a Greatest Hits. The closest I can imagine them coming to doing this is recording 12 Boyzone covers and issuing them under that title to confuse people. I have instead compiled a Spotify playlist of 4o tracks and two hours of my favourite HMHB moments [3]. This includes rude words and is especially soothing on train journeys involving inexplicable delays or traffic jams on grumpy Friday morning journeys into work [4].

[1] This was a genuine Amazon review, which now appears to have been taken offline. I have a screenshot, but I’m not posting that for accessibility reasons and also in order to not needlessly display the identity of someone who has removed their account.

[2] This is not the same as the best opening line to an album. Everyone [i.e.only me] knows that Armed Forces by Elvis Costello and the Attractions features both the best opening and the best closing line of any album (“Oh I just don’t know where to begin”/”What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?”).

[3] Two geeky provisos: the Kershaw/Peel session versions are often better but aren’t on Spotify and there is one alleged cover version in this list. In a typical HMHB twist, attempts to identify the claimed original author have met with failure and speculation swirls that it’s not actually a cover version but was a biscuit original all along.

[4] I work in Newport, mentioned on Lord Hereford’s Knob, which is where the title for this post came from, which takes us back to the beginning. January the 6th. Epiphany. By now you might be starting to understand what I meant about PBRs.

Header image by Kevan Davis CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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