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Virtual Trouser gets an urge for offal

By culture editor DJ NRG Raver

Posted March 16, 2015
Half Man Half Biscuit in concert
Scouse wit: HMHB's Nigel Blackwell on stage in 2008 yesterday. (Check bottom for credit)

Grab your Joy Division oven gloves because Virtual Trouser's off to Merseyside and the wonderful world of Half Man Half Biscuit.

Hello and welcome again to Virtual Trouser, the online incarnation of Naked Trouser, undoubtedly the greatest alternative music night in the world ever1.

Just remember to click on the following links because the ones for song titles will magically transport you across the realms of cyberspace into the very heart of a set list that could well change your life and soul for ever.

Well, YouTube, anyway.

So come with us now as we pay homage to the great British institution, national treasure and Trouser favourite that is Half Man Half Biscuit (HMHB).

Described as "the greatest English folk band since the Clash", HMHB, formed in 1984 in Birkenhead, Merseyside, have for the last three decades combined post-punk, indie and folk rock fused with frontman Nigel Blackwell's sarcastic, sardonic and highly witty vocals, all delivered in a dead-pan Scouse ethno-linguistic zone accent.

The standard formula for the lyric sheet comprises a string of biting one-liners exposing the ridiculous side of Britain's changing pop culture as well as middle class aspirations and smugness whilst namechecking numerous small towns and Welsh mountains without ever sounding parochial.

Take, for example, these two classics that, respectively, pay homage to Lord Hereford's Knob in Powys and the Cambridgeshire market town of Chatteris.

And while you're about it, note how the former track is one of the few songs ever to successfully use an OS map grid reference as a lyric.

No wonder these four lads shook the Wirral.

(Article continues below.)

But it's not just geography that floats their boat, with HMHB's breadth of influences, inspirations and parodies proving truly catholic (with both a small and a big 'C') in scope, ranging from Robert Johnson to Bauhaus and Simon & Garfunkel; Starship to Climie Fisher and Happy Mondays; and from Trumpton and Chigley to Equus and Mister Ed; as well as Milton's Paradise Lost to the Book of Revelation (NOT Revelations!!!) as Revealed to St John the Divine.

What's more, unlike pretty-much every other 'veteran' rock band, they have actually got better (and funnier) over time, like the musical equivalent of a fine wine or cheese.

So for an ironic trip through the UK's cultural history of the last 30 years, check out everything from their 1985 debut album Back in the DHSS to 2011's 90 Bisodol (Crimond) and HMHB's latest offering, the superbly named Urge for Offal.

A particular favourite is Achtung Bono from 2005, which spawned the timeless classics Restless Legs, Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo and the fantastic Joy Division Oven Gloves.

Then, of course, there's CSI:Ambleside (2008), with the priceless tracks Evening of Swing, Took Problem Chimp to the Ideal Home Show, Totnes Bickering Fair and National Shite Day, featuring the immortal line, "There's a man with a mullet going mad with a mallet in Millets".

As long-term fans know only to well, the list of HMHB stonkers is longer than a docker's tea break in a slowmo, so have a good root around on the playlists.

As you do so, be sure to check out Paintball's Coming Home, The Referee's Alphabet and the hilarious All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit (keen football fans, they famously once declined a helicopter ride and an appearance on Channel 4's The Tube in order to watch their local team, Tranmere Rovers) as well as the Naked Trouser anthem Dickie Davis Eyes.

So get clicking on the above links now.

Just don't mention The Lord of the Rings.

Chief hack's note: Sadly, the likelihood of an imminent HMHB word tour looks a tad slim, given that Nigel apparently likes to sleep in his own bed after each gig. Anyway, you can find out more about upcoming live dates and the band in general by clicking this.

But before you do that, we interrupt this article to bring you breaking news on Operation Less Pricks. Disturbing I know, but not half as distressing as finding out you've been tending the wrong grave for 23 years, something that could depress you beyond tablets if you haven't got a pair of Joy Division oven gloves to fall back on, of course.

The above six vids are embedded here on the tune-tastic Rake & Herald from the respective YouTube channels of Pogglefish; twinnedwitherlangen; thepowderedclouds; tbhoy66; Lemming013; and VALLEYOFGWANGI.

See also Thatcher exhumed, posted 24/11/13.

The original version of this article first appeared in Point Blank Poznan. Cheers, Steg. I'm cooking bacon fat and olive pits if you want some.


1) As voted for by a panel of intergalactic judges this past May.

Picture credit

Top and thumb: Nigel Blackwell of HMHB on stage in October 2008 by Kevan Davis.

For licensing information click the above link.

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