Here's a new favourite thing from an old and much loved favourite thing. I'm always a bit suspicious of people who say they like music but don't love Half Man Half Biscuit. I realise that in these fickle times the only bands less fashionable than HMHB are Baccara and Sailor, and to buy one of their records in a central London shop is a sure way of inviting the smirks of those who work behind the counter and somehow think they're cool, but really, so what? HMHB occupy a unique position in British music as observers of the minutiae of life and deflators of celebrity egos. They're probably still best known for their early records, those raucous assaults on the not so great and good, but over the years they've become subtle and wry. They are the greatest English folk band.
Ah, I could write reams about HMHB, and perhaps one day I will, but to the matter in hand. Their latest Peel session - recorded before the great man's death, but alas something he never had the pleasure of hearing - is well up to the mark. I'm not quite sure what my favourite song is, but I think I've got it down to a shortlist of three of the four. I know it isn't the standard chug-a-long of Joy Division Oven Gloves, although even that's filled with lines to make you smile. At first I thought my favourite was Asparagus Next Left, a dark fantasy about what those roadside signs to pick your own vegetables lead to. Then I more or less decided on For What Is Chatteris?, possibly the closest HMHB have got to a love song ('for what is Chatteris without you there?'). But at the moment, I think it's Epiphany, a creepy tale that leads to a lunatic's song delivered with gusto.
Truly, they are a band without compare. They have a trainspotterish website - www.hmhb.co.uk - which unpicks the many references in their songs, and handily archives recent sessions for the Peel and Kershaw programmes. The recent Kershaw one's pretty good, too. In fact they're all great. Go there, download them, and if you don't have an MP3 player, you should buy one just so you can listen to these.