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HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT (Buy CDs by this artist)
Back in the D.H.S.S. (UK Probe Plus) 1985
The Trumpton Riots EP (UK Probe Plus) 1986
Back Again in the D.H.S.S. (UK Probe Plus) 1987
The Peel Sessions EP (UK Strange Fruit) 1988
ACD (UK Probe Plus) 1989

This entertaining Liverpool quintet emerged from total obscurity to become a dominant British indie chart regular in the first half of 1986. Playing low-key garage-punk singalong ditties (imagine a cross between Mark Riley and Jonathan Richman), the Biscuits like to name names — songs on Back in the D.H.S.S. include "Fuckin' 'ell, It's Fred Titmus," "The Len Ganley Stance" and "99% of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd." Throughout, they remain completely unassuming, and exhibit a dry, sarcastic wit. A top-notch debut.

The Trumpton Riots EP is a little heavier — with raw drive and distorted synths, the snarling title cut and "Architecture, Morality, Ted and Alice" are both reminiscent of the early Stranglers. Side Two lightens up with the more hilarious "1966 and All That." Fans should look for the edition which adds a fifth track, "All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit," the best soccer song since the Fall's "Kicker Conspiracy."

Half Man Half Biscuit called it quits in 1987, hence the title of their second album, Back Again in the D.H.S.S. (Department of Health and Social Services — where Britons get their unemployment checks). Some of the Trumpton Riots cuts are reprised, as is the penchant for titles with real-life stars ("Rod Hull Is Alive — Why?" and "The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman"). The band is a bit tighter this go-around, and has cleaner (but hardly what you'd call glossy) production. The record's highlight is "Dickie Davies Eyes," which contains the inspirational verse, "And all those people who you romantically like to still believe are alive are dead/So I'll wipe my snot on the arm of your chair/as you put another Roger Dean poster on the wall." No folks, it doesn't get any better than this.

Apparently bored with the dole, HMHB reformed and began playing again in 1990. Along came the ACD compilation, seventeen tracks taken from Back Again and Peel sessions, plus live versions of material from the first album and Trumpton Riots. Catchy, irreverent and always funny (even if their humor is on the level of football hooligans), it's good to have this crew around again. Ever hear a crowd shout "Fuckin' 'ell, it's Fred Titmus!" on cue?

[David Sheridan]