Site Logo  HMHB
If not all that glistens is gold then it stands to reason that not all that which is gold does in fact glisten, in the conventional way. Society seems obsessed with the established way in which we determine good, bad, right, wrong, up, down, forwards, backwards, oh so interesting and just plain dull. By the same token, too many of us prefer to see intelligence as something measured by exams passed or position in company reached, when there are a range of total morons leaving school with a hatful of good GCSEs, and some very powerful thinkers simply emptying the bins (or not so, if you live in Gloucester). Hey, the pay’s better and they know some hard blokes.
Stop your average geezer on the average street and ask him to name five geniuses (should read genii, but it didn’t seem to fit) and you’re likely to get a list of the usual suspects; Einstein maybe, a few philosophers, an artist, and the token inventor.
Stop me, ask me the same question, and somewhere on the shortlist will be a name very few people outside the Wirral are likely to have heard, Nigel Blackwell.
Unless history has been shamelessly distorted by the establishment, he didn’t invent the wheel, nor engineer the Menai Bridge. His CV is unlikely to boast feats such as deciphering the ancient texts of Mesopotamia, developing the small pox vaccine or refining the E=MC² theory. But as stated above, this doesn’t stop him from being just as clever as the people who did.
His gift to the at times disgruntled masses of British wannabe geniuses is a collection of very astute observations of the place in which we live and the way we live there, set, refreshingly, to a music not of a mind to pursue the type of pristine plastic standards constantly spewed out from the workshops of the types of Simon Cowell, but instead competently performed as a vehicle for the ironic protest that is the band Half Man Half Biscuit.
Avoiding proper work since 1985, this band from the Birkenhead area of England has held a mirror to the faces of Brits for the most part keen to ‘break the drudgery’ of a suburban life in which music becomes far more than simply the ‘entertainment of those who are bored’ but a context in which to understand our very lives. The hypnotic mono-thematism of mainstream pop music has complemented the agenda of the powers that be to rob the masses of their ability to see the world through critical and alert eyes. And it takes a light as bright as that of the lads who shook the Wirral to make us take a step back and see that this is happening.

They may sing of the reality of unemployment and industrial dispute yet are not for the most part a political band. Instead they are our collective alter-ego, that part of us which takes the piss out of our own mates, the very act of which brings us closer together. Pure, unadulterated irony, crammed full of highly aware social references to the trivial, and to the profound. They sing of traditional pubs, poor service in petrol stations, the irritating jobsworth we’ve all had to work for at one time or another. They tell us about counterfeit lighters, shit arms and bad tattoos, Mr Galbraith’s pitiful competition onions, that Dennis Bell is a bitter loser at chess (hilarious). We learn about the geographical features of southern Wales, the Pope’s relative ignorance of modern music, that there’s no room for enigmas in built-up areas. We learn, or rather are reminded, that the people running the show are not always so smart.
And, top of the list, we find out just how many people resemble television football commentators. I had no idea! No idea whatsoever.
This band is a musical conversation down the local with yer mates. No short measures, no swoony love songs, no love lost, no love-ins. They may not appeal to everybody, nor sadly to everybody in Kazakhstan (yes, I have asked) but those to whom they do appeal might empathise with the admiration I have for them. And it is within this context that the word ‘genius’ becomes even more appropriate.