Album Review Hatcham Social - About Girls4 Stars
An altogether perkier, punchier collection than their debut.
Cast your mind back to 2009, and no less an authority than Alan McGee was proclaiming Hatcham Social – who at the time were major players in the burgeoning East London underground circuit – as ‘the Orange Juice of the Noughties’. Of course, he also tipped The Grants and The Vortex for big things (no, me neither), so it’s perhaps no surprise that his prediction didn’t come to pass. Still, their debut effort ‘You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil’ was pretty enjoyable, chock full of jangling anthems and alt-80’s references, and they remained a live favourite, drawing a sizeable and passionate crowd wherever they roamed.
2012 however is a very changed landscape, and many bands have struggled to adapt to the era of ‘post-internet’ and the meme-ification of music. A two year hiatus can be a long time – just ask The Ting Tings – even more so when you’re bedding in a new line up, but the Kidd brothers, having kept themselves busy, have returned with a spring in their step and a nonchalant air. Gone are the angular guitars and skittering nervousness, replaced with a newfound pop sensibility and a keen ear for melody that’s clear from the moment ‘NY Girl’s’ stomping guitars hover into view.
Despite being dedicated, in their own words, to ‘the girls we’ve loved, lusted over, and lost in the last few years,’ ‘About Girls’ doesn’t wallow in self-pity and heartache: it’s a bright and breezy listen, full of the jauntiness that characterised the 60’s songsmiths that it’s so obviously in thrall to. ‘Little Savage’ is built around a deliciously catchy hook, while ‘Dance With Me’ is an arch study in self-reflected glory and ‘bona fide’ indie anthem in waiting. The jangle pop of ‘All Summer Long’ sees singer Toby Kidd aping Oliver’s Army-era Elvis Costello, a trick he pulls of with aplomb, and even the taut, dark grooves of ‘Escape From London’ has an air of studied cool befitting a tale of clandestine infidelity.
Not everything they try comes off – the ascending chords of ‘Nicola Tells Me’ are reminiscent of what Noel Gallagher was churning out circa 1997, complete with nonsensical lyrics (‘Black peppercorns make me sneeze / Nicola tells me to freeze’), while ‘Like An Animal’ strays a little too close to Young Knives territory for comfort – but these are minor quibbles. Underpinned by the ever-reliable stick work of Finn Kidd, it’s an altogether perkier, punchier collection than their debut, and the beauty of ‘About Girls’ lies not in the details, but in the whole. It’s sentimental, but in a glass-half-full kind of way, the sort of anti-doom & gloom wistfulness that British music has specialised in since Eric Idle’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’. Having opened with a wry ‘Life is sad / So let’s dance,’ it’s fitting that it’s bookended by a beautifully simple ode to love’s early days, a reminder in difficult times that the sun still shines. It may only be April, but Summer 2012 already has 13 new reasons to be cheerful.