Half Man Half Biscuit/Flying Matchstick Men – The Arches (24 November 2005)

Due to the headliners here wanting to be home in Liverpooll before they turn into pumpkins (or at least in time to get an hour or two’s shut eye before work in the morning), Flying Matchstick Men take to the stage when most people are just mopping up the last of their HP. As a result they play to a fairly bemused group of old school Half Man Half Biscuit fans (more of whom later).

Which is a shame, because everyone should catch this band at the earliest opportunity. They are just really exciting – there’s no other word for it – the way this pop malarkey should be. Cramming in as many cool and glam references from the last thirty years as physically possible, they then take them and make a noise that, though eclectic, is thoroughly unique. It’s a kinda rocking electropop type thing. But, not in the way either of those terms suggest. They give me an urge to namecheck Sparks, but I somehow feel that would be doing them a disservice. Pop tunes with often ugly themes delivered so glam you’ll be singing them for weeks. All topped off with one of the most charismatic front men in town. Toe-tappingly catchy and utterly thrilling. Wowser.

Charlotte Bronte once said It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is nothing better in life than writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro. Half Man Half Biscuit put those universal truths into song form. And, like all prophets and seers they are destined to be mocked in their lifetime.

And so, HMHB will forever be known as that funny band from C86. Which, to be fair, is unfair.

Oh, they’re songs are often pant-wettingly hilarious. But Nigel Blackwell’s lyrics are the works of a satirical genius. Not only has he taken the cozy imagery of an idealised England from children’s television and juxtaposed onto it the reality of eighties Britain, but also the realities of lost innocence and dreams through the playthings of childhood in a way that shows up Goffin & King’s Goin’ Back for the sentimental tosh it is. All on either side of the one single.

And, they were on the legendary (wrongly now universal shorthand for twee) NME compilation back in the day. And, even if their earliest recordings did very much reflect the aesthetic of the time, they still churned out such monumental noise pieces as I Hate Nerys Hughes (which was of course the actual track featured on the damned thing).

And, despite a ropey sound for the first couple of songs (which baring in mind, as a result of a castle visit and a crash in Glasgow‘s wonderful one way system, is fair enough as their sound man only appeared about half an hour before the gig), they rock.

So, to get back to the fans. They’re one of the weirdest and most varied bunch of folk I’ve seen in quite some time. There’s obviously the ‘older’ fans out for their one gig of the year and ready to party hard. Kinda like the folk you get going to see the Pogues, but with brain cells. And, then there’s the truly switched on young indie types (it should be noted that apparently four of the five Flying Matchstick Men are fans, never found out which one wasn’t).

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Written by Tony Kiernan

15 December 2005 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Gigs

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