Hatcham Social – You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil

Hatcham Social - You Dig The Tunnel, I'll Hide The Soil

Hatcham Social - You Dig The Tunnel, I'll Hide The Soil

I don’t suppose Hatcham Social are the very happiest of bands right now. For the second time, their attempt to bring their very own brand of south London guitar histrionics to a U.S audience has met with failure, following the cancellation of Echo & The Bunnymen’s recent American tour. I wonder if the four, or is it five piece, are terribly distraught at this: they’ve certainly made an album that, despite one or two obvious flaws, is a sufficiently adept piece of work to enable them to sit back in their Camberwell kitchens and say ‘we actually were contenders’, and Hatcham Social in fact remain a serious proposition for 2010.

Perhaps their producer, Tim (The Charlatans) Burgess can provide the group with a proper introduction to Stateside audiences next year. As it is, the Kidd brothers, Finnigan and Tobias, Dave Fineberg and Jerome Watson are actually in Norway as I type this, taking their noirish urban anthems to audiences in Oslo and Bergen, where they can bedazzlle their hosts with their tales of shuttered shopfronts and speeding taxis, and their big red guitars with their shiny bigsbys and effects pedals turned up to just under halfway. You can sense their breath crystallising inthe dank winter air, any disappointment about their US visit tempered by their own satisfaction with this 11 tracker which, while it isn’t exactly a perfect pop record, is somehow the album they wanted to make.

A series of chimes lead into the swaying reverberations of album opener “Crocodile” and it is immediately apparent that Hatcham Social would have made eminently suitable tour companions for The Bunnymen. “The show’s not over”, sings Finnigan Kidd, indeed it is only just getting started, as a bared-teeth grin of a guitar solo slithers across the song’s ending. “Sidewalk” references, distantly, the downward push of the early Stroke colliding with a ponderous Hook-like bassline. Hardly pedestrian fare, and while next tracks “Murder In The Dark” and “Hypnotise Terrible Eyes” share definite rhythmic and chord structure similarities, Hatcham Social are properly warmed up and “So So Happy Making” is a lighter, even summery sounding number, gleeful Britbeat and the song that most obviously references The Charlatans, at least so far.

Next track “Superman” with its repetitive keyboard riff which recalls Inspiral Carpets at their least abrasive is the key track to the entire album: the shadow of Madchester making its presence felt throughout You Dig… and its around here that things start to sound a little patchy. “I Cannot Control My Pure Evil” and “In My Opinion” both lean a bit too heavily on the Bunnymen’s legacy, the guitars falling too readily back into what are (to this reviewer) the cutting shards of some of Heaven Up Here‘s more strident moments. It works, it bites when and where it should, but these aren’t Hatcham Social’s own riffs and rhythms. And “Jabberwocky” sounds like filler, really, Lewis Carroll’s monstrous nonsense spoken flatly over a track that really could’ve used a properly sung vocal. So where did actual album highlight “Penelope” spring from then? A highly tuneful love song reminiscent of both late period Kinks and Postcard era Orange Juice, but only superficially, it’s easily the strongest song on the album and a welcome touch of quality Britpop amongst the occasionally forced sounding miserablism of much of the rest of the album. Last track “Give Me The Gift” appears to encapsulate Hatcham Social’s dilemma: a four minute re-enactment of the preceding ten tracks with the band sounding as if they’re only just getting into their stride right here, fully realising their potentials at the very last minute.

So, You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil doesn’t disappoint, but it doesn’t exactly enthrall either. Sounding somehow hampered by studio limitations, there’s a throwaway feel to some tracks here that, while it underlines Hatcham Social’s best moments, also shows them shifting nervously under a suddenly too bright stagelight. They aren’t going under just yet though. Somehow the best is yet to come for the ‘band most likely to tour the US in 2010’.

Fierce Panda Records