Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Wed 11th August (15/9/04)

Stuart McHugh:

Well-worn epithet "The Scottish Half Man Half Biscuit" probably does both the Hectors and indeed the band they're supporting tonight a disservice, but comedy in rock is such a rare thing that it's an inevitable comparison. And what better time to pair the two bands than during the Edinburgh Festival? The 5-piece ultra-slick opening combo have come a long way from shambling C86 acolytes, but if the cap fits... thus, 'Celebrity World War' and 'Opposites' namecheck everyone from Saddam to Sylvester McCoy in hilarious surreal set-pieces. The lyrics are occasionally lost in a muddy mix, but the main laugh-out loud moment for the audience is a cover of a certain George Michael song - listing a variety of albums no Cure fan should be without, it concludes with the inevitable but laugh-out-loud couplet "but you gotta have 'Faith'". An audience cracks up, as one.

It's laughter all the way with the main attractions of course - well, pretty much - as HMHB return after their triumphant show last year in what may well be an annual visit. Expect "people who throw beer at gigs" to emerge as a subject in future, but a muttered threat from Nigel happily prevents any trouble. The atmosphere picks up - Ken dons a chucked Jimmy hat and the mosh pit gets into serious gear with 'Running Order Squabble Fest'; the band as much a rock'n'roll machine as national bards.

More songs updated for the new millennium - 'Paintball's Coming Home' still pays homage to yuppies, and now their pets - "The cat with its own website" and the folk on 'Henman Hill'. And a poke at the star attraction from the 'other' music festival in 'A Lilac Harry Quinn' : "six weeks to live but at least I'm not Dido". Their back catalogue is plundered for nigh on two hours - from 'Tending the Wrong Grave for 23 Years' to closer 'Everything's AOR', then of course 'Trumpton Riots' ensures smiles from both audience and band.