Half Man Half Biscuit

McIntyre, Treadmore & Davitt

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Surprising just about everyone by suddenly reuniting in 1990 (minus keyboard player Simon Blackwell), Half Man Half Biscuit released their second proper album the following year and surprised their fan base even more. Gone is the scrappy, Fall-like grind of the band's early sound, replaced by a far more mid-tempo, lower-voltage and slightly folk-rocky vibe, closer to the likes of Lloyd Cole or the Woodentops. The change was enough to turn off those already nostalgic for the brashness of the C-86 era, but closer inspection proved that even though the songs are both slower and longer, that cosmetic change only gave singer/songwriter Nigel Blackwell a broader canvas for his increasingly complex, multi-layered lyrics. By this point in the band's career, Blackwell's lyrical focus is on turning ordinary everyday life into crackpot, surreal poetry through near-obsessive punning and pop culture references, but there's a newfound empathy to songs like "PragVEC at the Melkweg" and "Girlfriend's Finished with Him," mining genuine feeling out of the scenes of unemployed Liverpool life much as Chris Difford managed during Squeeze's heyday. Even more overtly comic tunes like the opening "Outbreak of Vitas Gerulaitis" have a more low-key, reflective quality, due in part to Blackwell's greater facility with memorable melodies.

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