After the success (of sorts) of their last album, "Achtung Bono" - the first since their indie days of jangly guitars, wasp-buzz synth & "All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit" to get mainstream acclaim (ie. "The Guardian", etc. remembered they existed)- it was always going to be a hard act for Voldermort lookalike Nigel Blackwell & his cohorts to follow.
Matters were not helped by such distractions as one so-called fan who thought she'd a God given right to sell bootlegs of any unreleased material on the net (said fan is now "helping the police with their enquiries", after discovering ripping off HMHB is one thing, ripping off the BBC with their heavy duty legal team is quite another...); and niggles over a still unreleased compilation of promo videos & live clips.
As such, one or two tracks have the feel of being rushed out to get the album ready for the deadline or been altered for the sake of sounding different to the bootlegged versions, in particular "Blue Badge Abuser" & "Totnes Bickering Fair", which sound like demos.
The album also suffers from its running order somewhat, and takes a few more listens than normal, although several tracks jump out as favourites from the outset, such as the singalong "Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess", "On The Roids" (containing the knockout line "His paranoia is absurd - 'Are you THINKING about my bird?') & "Petty Sessions" (the latter being the Hokey Cokey set to atypical Biccie lyrical silliness - "I stick my big nose in - when I go out...I like an altercation with a member of staff - 'That was a £10 note!'").
The opening "Evening Of Swing (Has Been Cancelled)" and later "Lord Hereford's Knob" are natural continuations of the pub'n'folk rock feel of the last album, but "Took Problem Chimp To Ideal Home Show" with its funky bass & Trio-esque Casio organ certainly throws a star-spangled spanner in the works. One of the more strangely addictive songs from the album.
The pedestrian "Ode To Joyce" (Grenfell?) may please the villagers of Lochwinnoch to see their world famous (but now closed) Krystal Klear soft drinks factory receive a name drop, although the owners of The Priest Hole restaurant in Ambleside adorning the album cover were less amused at the free advertising ("they might have used a new photo!" they moaned when put - literally - in the picture).
The final track, clocking in at over 6 minutes, sounds suspiciously similar to the Pixies "Bone Machine", but is less an excuse for catnip induced sounding insanity that one of Nigel's acclaimed thoughtstreams on Life, The Universe, and a Man With A Mullet Going Mad With A Mallet In 'Millets' - the latter one of the frequent hill-walking references most HMHB albums tend to have these days.
Which begs the question. If buttock-cheek clenchingly bad Celtic or Country & Western artists can be bought in all not-so-good record shops and woollen mills, why isn't the HMHB back catalogue available next to the Kendal Mint Cake in Outdoor stores? Answer that and you could win a cruise, especially if you enter a contest where a cruise is the prize. Otherwise, enjoy the latest round of gentle cynicism & grumpiness from one of England's finest treasures.