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Verdict: 
Excellent collection of songs from the man with the lilac Harry Quinn
Weight: 
89g
Half Man Half Biscuit: No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut
9 10

No One Cares About Your Creative Hub so Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut is the best Half Man Half Biscuit in years. Okay, HMHB not being exactly prolific, it's also their only album in years, but it nevertheless sees Nigel Blackwell and the boys in top form with a collection of great tunes combined with Blackwell's sardonic but never cynical take on everyday life.

Pros: Cheerful, upbeat tunes combined with witty, sardonic lyrics

Cons: People who don't like this sort of thing won't like it, but it even has a song for them (Bladderwrack Allowance)

Half Man Half Biscuit songwriter and main man Nigel Blackwell has almost certainly written more songs about cycling than anyone else in rock and roll (or however else you want to characterise the oeuvre of the band John Peel called a national treasure and Andy Kershaw described as 'England's greatest folk band').

> Buy this online here

The arrival of a new Half Man Half Biscuit album is therefore cause for celebration, partly to see whether Blackwell's deep love of cycling has popped up in his lyrics this time, but mostly for a new dose of the band's genre-hopping joyous racket and its contrast with Blackwell's lyrics: often snarky to the point of biting, laden with cultural references, never, ever dull.

And so it is with 'No One Cares About Your Creative Hub so Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut', the first proper Half Man Half Biscuit album since 2014's Urge for Offal.

In contrast to that rather downbeat outing, the music on 'No One Cares About Your Creative Hub so Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut' bounces along with an energy I'd call youthful if I didn't know Blackwell was a couple of years older than me.

It's a cheerful, tuneful collection, though thankfully it's as lyrically sharp as ever. Like the Chatteris Town Hall Band CD, it's a grower. In a week of playing it on heavy rotation I've gone from 'this is really quite good' to 'bloody hell this is a damn good album'. I haven't felt like that about a record since The Hold Steady's 'Stay Positive'.

Standout tracks on the album (which I'm going to call Creative Hub because I can't be bothered to cut and paste the full name every time) include Man Of Constant Sorrow (With A Garage In Constant Use), a touching portrait of one of those grumpy neighbours everyone had growing up, with 'nothing for you to borrow/And a mastiff in the back running loose'. Yet a peek into his house reveals 'ultimate loneliness, absolute blue' while the music evokes various versions of the original American folk song, without actually sounding much like them.

Blackwell's greatest ire is aimed at the cargo cult aspirationals who pick up the trappings of a culture without understanding its heart. His protagonists in 'Every Time A Bell Rings' dream of running the creative hub of the album's title. 'He stays in the car leafing through a high-end coffee bean catalog/Their dream is to open up a roastery in the Keswick area' Blackwell deadpans before letting us know that this character is a MAMIL who 'got a Boardman bike on the Cycle to Work scheme ... Started watching the Tour de France highlights on ITV Four/Worshipped at the altar of Wiggo and Froomedog/Goes out every Sunday in full Sky replica kit'. Blackwell's advice is blunt: 'Stop analysing Strava/Cut your hedge.' I feel better about being a Strava refusenik now (though can't-be-arsednik might be more accurate, and my hedge still needs cutting).

Renfield's Afoot is a punk-rock howl of middle-aged defiance. 'I'll be going on any-time-I-like walks' yells Blackwell in response to an attempt to organise a bat walk in Wirral's Royden Park, while 'Knobheads on Quiz Shows' is a full artillery barrage aimed at people who go on quiz shows without any trace of general knowledge. 'What possessed you to apply/Did your friends with good advice implode?' he demands.

Walking, hiking, scrambling and the outdoors in general is also a recurring Blackwell theme. Another of the album's highlights, 'Mod Diff V Diff Hard Severe' kicks off with a guitar attack that wouldn't be out of place on a Hold Steady intro (and that's a double headliner I'd pay a very large amount of money to see) and sprints headlong into an energetic rock-climbing metaphor about relationships.

It's all rather glorious and – amazingly – the Great British Public seems to think so too. Creative Hub entered the album chart at number 33, Half Man Half Biscuit's highest ever chart placing, achieved entirely by word of mouth. If it took Jarvis Cocker 16 years to become an overnight success, the 33 years since the first Half Man Half Biscuit album makes Pulp's rise look positively meteoric.

After that sort of span of time and 14 albums most bands have either vanished up their own arses (U2, I'm looking at you), become thoroughly bored by the exercise (did anyone really mourn REM after they phoned in Around the Sun and Collapse Into Now?), or imploded after the death or departure of key members (too many to mention; Genesis is no great loss, but I'd give my left nut for a couple or three more Queen singles).

Half Man Half Biscuit have retained their creative energy and unique upbeat cynicism through line-up changes and even shutting down over 'musical similarities' in 1986, because the band is driven by Nigel Blackwell's songwriting. They owe their longevity surely to the fact that Blackwell, who famously hates touring and only very reluctantly gives interviews, has never chased fame or success.

In fact he's run a mile from it at every opportunity; he once turned down a chance to appear on legendary TV show The Tube because Tranmere Rovers were playing at home that night. Only releasing an album when it suits him enables Blackwell to exert a degree of quality control more motivated bands can only dream of.

People's Choice: Your favourite songs about bikes and cycling

Creative Hub is a high point in Half Man Half Biscuit history. If you're already into them, even only to the extent of dimly remembering 'All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit' or 'Time Flies By (When You're A Driver Of A Train)' then you should buy it. If you're not yet into them but you like a bloody well-crafted tune, jangly guitars and a sardonic but affectionate lyrical take on English life, you should buy it.

In keeping with their usual Sales Suppression Strategy, record label Probe Plus has sold out at the time of writing, so you'll just have to buy it from Amazon. Yes, it's an evil corporate giant, but a) you'll be helping keep road.cc going as we get a tiny slice of affiliate dosh and b) you can download the MP3 version immediately and tell me I'm a sad old git who urgently needs to update his musical taste.

Half Man Half Biscuit play the O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London on 8 June; O2 Academy, Liverpool on 28 September (sold out); and O2 Ritz, Manchester on 30 November.

Verdict

Excellent collection of songs from the man with the lilac Harry Quinn

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Half Man Half Biscuit No One Cares About Your Creative Hub so Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut

Size tested: CD

Tell us what the product is for

Listening to.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

It's the 14th studio album by the mighty Half Man Half Biscuit, comprising the following tracks:

Alehouse Futsal

Man of Constant Sorrow (With A Garage In Constant Use)

Knobheads on Quiz Shows

Bladderwrack Allowance

Renfield's Afoot

Terminus

The Announcement

What Made Colombia Famous

Harsh Times in Umberstone Covert

Every Time a Bell Rings

Emergency Locksmith

Mod Diff V Diff Hard Severe

Swerving the Checkatrade

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

A tenner for 14.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Superbly; 38 minutes and 57 seconds of sonic entertainment.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Everything.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Enthusiastically

Use this box to explain your overall score

The best Half Man Half Biscuit for quite some time.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 85kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

25 comments

Avatar
srchar [996 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

That’s right, let’s all hate on other cyclists because they don’t cycle in exactly the same way we do.

That Sky kit-wearing, Boardman-riding MAMIL is another person who won’t be grazing your elbow with his wing mirror, or shouting abuse at you for taking the lane.

I mean, is having a go at people for minor lifestyle choices considered “punk” these days? Sad.

Avatar
rjfrussell [485 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

 

Musical genius?  Or purveyor of moderately amusing songs in the (underdstandably not widel successful) "novelty/punk" genre. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na12OyJEgJ8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ao19eROwu_c

I think the collected works of U2 and REM may just outlast Mr Blackwell's.  Maybe he's not just less "motivated".  Maybe he's a bit, you, know, more, "shit".

 

Plus echo the sad, knocking, not doing, previous comment.

Avatar
misterbee [17 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes

I'm guessing probe plus were not expecting such high demand, out of stock every time I've checked!!!!

Lighten up previous commentators, HMHB have a habit of gentle mickey taking, if you can't laugh at yourself......

I like REM and U2, but on reflection I've not played anything by either band in ages, but HMHB are always on my playlists.

Avatar
Edgeley [540 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

The audience at the last HMHB gig I went to (Leamington a few weeks back) was 40% fat beer blokes, 40% cycling and beer oldblokes, 20% other (people under 40, women, men who appeared neither to live on beer nor gels).

Good as ever,

Avatar
bornagainst [19 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

If you're struggling to find stock, just buy the vinyl LP, it comes with a free CD in the sleeve...

 

Absolute genius band.

Avatar
srchar [996 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
misterbee wrote:

Lighten up previous commentators, HMHB have a habit of gentle mickey taking, if you can't laugh at yourself......

...laugh at people who've just taken up cycling?  I'd laugh if it were, y'know, a funny joke.  But it's just bile.

Avatar
simonmb [637 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut

It disturbs me more that there's no punctuation. I could never buy it on these grounds alone.

Avatar
Tass Whitby [61 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

simonmb wrote:

No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut

It disturbs me more that there's no punctuation. I could never buy it on these grounds alone.

No punctuation? What about the apostrophe? (I don't like all the capital letters, but it is a title.)

Avatar
Simontuck [200 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

I don't understand any of this post. Will it help me cycle faster?

Avatar
earth [415 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

John Peel secretly laughed at people who enjoyed at least some of his musical finds.

Avatar
arckuk [86 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

Watch the TdF highlights on ITV4? Yes, but then I have done most years since 1989, with a few years off in the 2000s. 

Boardman bike? No, but I have used cycle 2 work before

Middle aged? Yes - 47 years old puts me firmly in that category

Worship Wiggins and Froome? No, at best I've got a grudging respect for what they've achieved, and suspicion that Sky's methods put them closer to the moral/legal grey line as they'd want us to believe.

MAMIL? yup, wear the lycra every day on the commute

Full Sky kit? No. Got a free Rapha/Sky t-shirt from Evans ages ago, would never have worn it though.

Hedge? Gave it a thorough going over at the weekend.

Not sure whether I'm on the side of the sniper or the target. I've always enjoyed HMHB, I'm not sure if searching for and finding the new album on Spotify rather than seeking out a physical copy seals the deal! 

Avatar
MarkiMark [79 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Can't see any apostrophal  1 crimes in the album title. It's a title so justified in its use of capitalisation, and the replacement of 'g' with an apostrophe designating an abbreviation it fine, ignoring the fact that replacing one character with one other is technically not an abbreviation. Nice title well written. Haven't listened to any HMHB ever so am looking forward to this on my bike ride home this evening. I can recommend the new Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks album though.

Avatar
aegisdesign [75 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes
srchar wrote:

That Sky kit-wearing, Boardman-riding MAMIL is another person who won’t be grazing your elbow with his wing mirror, or shouting abuse at you for taking the lane.

Except they probably will.

HMHB are taking the piss out of the FKWs who DON'T go out cycling other than on a Sunday on their bike they've bought from Halfords through a tax fiddle that's supposed to encourage cycling to work.

Bonus bile for riding around like an advertising hoarding for Murdoch, which if you're from Merseyside, is definitely not the done thing.

HMHB have a long history of having a go at people for "minor lifestyle choices", not just "these days". 

Here's hoping you don't have a blue badge or play Subuteo.

Avatar
KendalRed [217 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Well if it's half as good as 'CSI Ambleside' then I'm in!

"if you look closely, in the corner of 'The Scream', the couple in the background, are both Robson Green"

Genius.

 

Avatar
srchar [996 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
aegisdesign wrote:

HMHB are taking the piss out of the FKWs who DON'T go out cycling other than on a Sunday on their bike they've bought from Halfords through a tax fiddle that's supposed to encourage cycling to work.

Struggling to see anything worth spitting bile at there.

Avatar
Rapha Nadal [886 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

But is this record 10% stiffer than the last?  More aero?  Lighter?  What brand of carbon is it made from?  What upgrades does it need?

Avatar
PRSboy [310 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes
Rapha Nadal wrote:

But is this record 10% stiffer than the last?  More aero?  Lighter?  What brand of carbon is it made from?  What upgrades does it need?

Yup. No disc brake version, I'm out...

Avatar
KendalRed [217 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
PRSboy wrote:
Rapha Nadal wrote:

But is this record 10% stiffer than the last?  More aero?  Lighter?  What brand of carbon is it made from?  What upgrades does it need?

Yup. No disc brake version, I'm out...

But there's a Compact Disc version...

Avatar
aegisdesign [75 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
srchar wrote:

Struggling to see anything worth spitting bile at there.

Which is fantastic.

For the rest of us struggling with the rubbishness of modern life, there's HMHB albums.

Avatar
See 59 [24 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
aegisdesign wrote:
srchar wrote:

That Sky kit-wearing, Boardman-riding MAMIL is another person who won’t be grazing your elbow with his wing mirror, or shouting abuse at you for taking the lane.

Except they probably will.

HMHB are taking the piss out of the FKWs who DON'T go out cycling other than on a Sunday on their bike they've bought from Halfords through a tax fiddle that's supposed to encourage cycling to work.

Bonus bile for riding around like an advertising hoarding for Murdoch, which if you're from Merseyside, is definitely not the done thing.

HMHB have a long history of having a go at people for "minor lifestyle choices", not just "these days". 

Here's hoping you don't have a blue badge or play Subuteo.

 

Or Joy Division oven gloves.

Avatar
srchar [996 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes
Rapha Nadal wrote:

But is this record 10% stiffer than the last?  More aero?  Lighter?  What brand of carbon is it made from?  What upgrades does it need?

If you drill some holes in it, you get a Super Record.

Avatar
hylozoist [67 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
KendalRed wrote:
PRSboy wrote:

Yup. No disc brake version, I'm out...

But there's a Compact Disc version...

Better use one of those disc safety covers with that, just to be safe.

Avatar
Simon_MacMichael [2518 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Rapha Nadal wrote:

But is this record 10% stiffer than the last?  More aero?  Lighter?  What brand of carbon is it made from?  What upgrades does it need?

If it's stiffness you want, this release is on the wrong label.

I can't vouch for Stiff Reecords' vertical compliance, however.

Avatar
Chuffy [202 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

Our Nige has always been sniffy about things of which he does not approve. He's a bit of a snob really, tbh.

Still, it's downloading from Amazon as I type and I fervently hope it's better than Urge for Offal, which wasn't much cop by HMHB's exalted standards. Another Cammell Laird Social Club? A boy can dream...

Avatar
gonedownhill [199 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

You probably work at an all night garage.