Thursday, January 31, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 8)
This is the thing about making up your own lists.....there will be things on them that will rarely feature elsewhere.
Back In The D.H.S.S. is not an album that critics really fawn over. But it's one that has always meant a lot to me.
It's an album that sounds as if it cost about £40 to record (which is exactly what it cost!!). It's about as far removed in sophistication from Tindersticks (see Part 7 of this series) as you could imagine. But its release in 1985 came when, for the most part, music was becoming more and more about style over substance and it seemed a wonderfully nostalgic throwback to the punk-era which, just eight years on, seemed a distant memory and an entire lifetime ago.
It also came out at a time when the UK was a depressing place to live. For those of us who were of a left-wing persuasion the defeat of the coal miners was a body-blow which gave rise to those who had wealth and influence flaunting it and lording it over those of us who didn't. The threat of war hung in the air as the hawk-like President Reagan spent each day asking the Russians if they wanted to come and go if they thought they were hard enough . Over in South Africa, a racist society was denying so many citizens basic rights because of their colour. Nearer home, the lot of those living on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall didn't look too clever either.
In short, there weren't many reasons to be cheerful and we all needed someone to lift us out of our wallowing self-pity and misery. That someone turned out to be Nigel Blackwell.
His lyrics are often that of an angry and fed-up bloke but they aren't lyrics influenced by class war, nuclear holocausts or oppressive regimes. Instead, the very humdrum and banal nature of every day is questioned by surreal and hilarious stand-up comedy poetry set to lo-fi music.
The tone is set perfectly by opening track God Gave Us Life.
After reflecting that life is truly wonderful as we can football with our mates in the street, the ying to the yang is that life is just as equally wonderful as it allows us to take sweets off strange men who will then drive us in big cars to woodlands to let us stroke non-existent puppies. And just as you're recovering from the guilt of laughing out loud at a joke about paedophilia, there's a satirical attack on what was then the cream of the crop of UK telly as one-dimensional actors, singers and entertainers are roll-called as some of the bad things God has put on planet Earth. Fuck whinging about the apartheid regime.....Little & Large are still on the BBC every Saturday night!
In 1985, this album was my equivalent of taking an upper when I was on a downer. I'd come in from another wasted night, drunk and lonely to a deserted flat. All attempts at getting a shag had come to nowt. I could put on The Smiths and wallow in my self-pity....or I could shove on Half Man Half Biscuit and have a laugh. I more often than not did the latter....
Within months of this album hitting the shops, HMHB were back in the studio and recording The Trumpton Riots EP which I reckon is my favourite recording of theirs. It was, unlike Back In The D.H.S.S a proper studio recording and not just a demo that the record company loved. The EP got HMHB an appearance on the telly and that's when we all saw that these guys could play and it was more than just a clever lyricist.
HMHB have released a number of excellent albums since 1985, but as Dirk said in a comment left on a posting earlier in this series, the first record you own by a band or singer is usually the one that leaves the deepest impression.
mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit - God Gave Us Life
mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit - Time Flies By (When You're The Driver of A Train)
mp3 : Half Man Half Biscuit - Venus In Flares
All taken from the vinyl LP. They have been made available on a re-mastered CD that also include the afore-mentioned Trumpton Riots EP plus another couple of excellent early songs. But the re-recording is a bit too polished for my liking....
Oh and here's that first appearance on the telly:-