I Tolerate Novelty Rock
Not sure why. But it's a fact I had to face when admitting to Carl Impostume that I'd just spent ten quid on a vinyl copy of Half Man Half Biscuit's Back in the DHSS. I knew he'd understand. He's a Jonathan Richman fan.
The example of Richman is probably instructive. The real appeal of Jonathan is - I've always assumed - the man's utter sincerity. There seems to be some link between undeniably sincere songwriting and no-holds-barred novelty rock. Or at least, there seems to be a place where the former crosses into the latter. That would explain Current 93, then.
The Moldy Peaches are another good case in point. Sometimes it's the most stupid lines in their ludicrous "songs" that are the most touching. I honestly get quite choked up when I hear Kimya Dawson sing: "Without 40 ounces of social skills/I'm just an ass in the crack of humanity/I'm just a huge manatee." Its true!
But Half Man Half Biscuit? Surely there's no excuse for that! The explanation I gave Carl at the time was "pure nostalgia". Well, as a smartypants blogger, I should be able to excuse my nostalgia by resorting to the good ol' H word, right?
Actually, there is something (vaguely) defacto hauntological about hearing Nigel Blackwell trauling through the dregs of 80s popular culture. Of course, at the time, he was just flicking bogies at the contemporary world as it appeared to him. But his (literally) pathetic songs have taken on a new poignancy now that most of the celebs who irked him so much are no longer famous.
The wow-and-flutter of the production probably helps. I got into HMHB as a young teen, via a third-or-fourth generation cassette of their first two albums. It's surprising to hear some of those songs again on a near-mint vinyl pressing and realize that the tape was actually a fairly decent reproduction of a really really crappy sound.