A solid leap over 1998's lackluster Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral, Trouble Over Bridgwater kicks out of the gates with one of Nigel Blackwell's all-time greats, a celebration of pop music in all its forms called "Irk the Purists." A call to like what you like whether it's hipster-approved or not, based on the tune of the hymn "Hosanna to the King of Kings" (with a bridge copped from the transcendentally naff 1983 Europop hit "Agadoo" by Black Lace), "Irk the Purists" could well be Half Man Half Biscuit's spiritual theme song. The word spiritual isn't bandied about lightly, for the next track, "Uffington Wassail," continues Blackwell's recent interest in Biblical allusion in the service of his increasingly ornate character studies of village life in the northwest of England. On a more secular level, "Twenty Four Hour Garage People" (interpolating a bit of the folk standard "In the Pines") and "It's Clichéd to Be Cynical at Christmas" are among Blackwell's most effective social commentaries, and his ongoing string of tweaks to the self-obsessed and stylish continues apace with "With Goth on Our Side," the deadpan dance music parody "Nove on the Sly," and the downright evil mockery of "The Ballad of Climie Fisher," a surreal, half-spoken fantasia on the demise of a particularly egregious '80s chart pop duo set to a lovely circular acoustic guitar figure. Overall, an entirely solid addition to Half Man Half Biscuit's later catalog, nearly as good as 2005's outstanding Achtung Bono.
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