Hatcham Social - You Dig The Tunnel

Fierce Panda, 2009
[rating:7.5/10]

Like a conduit for great English bands of the past, South London’s Hatcham Social have assembled a festival line-up of influences that not so much as hide between the grooves but leap straight from the needle. Having recently witnessed them live at the Fierce Panda Birthday Bash, Hatcham Social were one of few bands of late to totally captivate my attention re-ignite my lost love of English music.

Watching Hatcham Social live was like listening to Echo & The Bunnymen, followed by the Teardrop Explodes and then Orange Juice. All bands that made unique impressions on the music scene but have more or less been overlooked as crucial reference points in the passing of time. With the initial Bunnymen impression in place it seemed apt that the first track from Hatcham Social’s debut album shares the same title as Echo & The Bunnymen debut album. Well, I’ll be damned…

Two years and four singles already into the band’s career, You Dig The Tunnel… was recorded last year with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, an early supporter of the band and producer of their third single “Til The Dawn”. Despite all being in their early twenties (and siblings Toby and Finn Kidd on guitar/vocals and drums respectively) , Hatcham Social have a satisfying old-indie sound to them that would‘ve found them a safe home on the Postcard or Creation labels, notwithstanding their obvious allure of their Mary Chain-like stand-up drummer.

You Dig The Tunnel… opens strong with the wide-eyed melodic pop of “Crocodile” which could well be a track from Orange Juice’s first album, vocalist Toby Kidd sounding uncannily, and I do mean uncannily like Edwyn Collins. A lyric from “Sidewalk” gives the album its title, mixes a soothing vocal from Toby Kidd over an intersecting guitar and bass. Current single “Murder in the Dark” could be to indie/dance the same way “Dig Me Out” was to Franz Ferdinand and does much to show what an invaluable presence Finn Kidd is on drums.

Previous single “So So Happy Making” has a bouncing beat that like “Crocodile” securely pins an Orange Juice badge firmly to their lapels.  There’s enough diversions in sound and tempo on You Dig The Tunnel… for the album to never lose its grip as it moves from the frantic guitar antics of “I Cannot Cure My Pure Evil” into the offbeat spoken recital of Louis Carrol‘s “Jabberwocky“ without completely jumping the rails. What is a debut album without a girl’s name for a song title? Orange Juice had Felicity. Hatcham Social have the opulent “Penelope”. Finishing up with the raw nerves of “Give Me The Gift”, You Dig The Tunnel.. completes its journey in an impressive 33 minutes and it’s enough to make you want them to start digging again.

Just when I thought England were in dire need of a fresh band to save us from the electro drivel of Lady Gaga and the empty art of White Lies, salvation lies in the able hands of Hatcham Social. Impressive as a live act and now with a fine debut album as their calling card, this is the band to watch.