Half Man Half BiscuitThe Ultimate Cult Band
DIY post-punks age surprisingly gracefully.
Half Man Half Biscuit are the cultiest of cult bands. Not only do their fans tend to the obsessive -- there is a website devoted to analyzing and explicating every line of every song the band has recorded since 1984 -- but singer-songwriter Nigel Blackwell comes across as the ultimate pop culture vacuum cleaner. The average HMHB song is three minutes' worth of scrappy DIY post-punk clatter overlaid with lyrics impossibly overstuffed with jokes, puns and obscure references to minor UK public figures like Benny Hill straightman Bob Todd and cricketer Fred Titmus. Although the band originally had a reputation for indolence -- a not-quite-true legend claims they refused to appear on Top of the Pops because their favored football team, Tranmere Rovers, were playing that day -- HMHB are the only band that appeared on the legendary C86 cassette who are still active in the 2000s. Later albums like Achtung Bono and CSI: Ambleside are less noisy, with occasional strains of British folk and traditional American country threaded through the indie-guitar tunes and Blackwell casting a sardonic middle-aged eye on modern suburban amenities like farmers markets and big-box department stores. Their aging fans still love them, however: in 2010, as the BBC threatened to cut their indie station due to budget constraints, a grassroots internet movement successfully got Half Man Half Biscuit's 2005 single "Joy Division Oven Gloves" into the charts as a dadaesque protest.