With an extra pair of hands by the name of Jerome Watson assisting on keyboards and guitar (but not at the same time), the band played their first chord fifteen minutes late and then immersed us totally in their world for just over half an hour. I don’t know if the whole album did get played, but if what was heard is what’s released, it’s certainly, to understate it, an achievement. Veering track by track from dreamily melodic to purposeful and aggressive, and reaching everywhere in between on the way, the melancholy keyboards offset Toby Kidd’s spiky guitar to bring in a hint of shoegazing texture, and Dave Fineberg keeps the whole thing grounded in post-punk roots with a series of intricate but solid bass parts.
No tracks are introduced, but details stand out to mark the new ones: here’s a chorus of ‘I’ll hide under the pillow’; here’s a perfect marriage of New Order keys with Orange Juice vocals; here’s Toby (replete with moustache and kiss-curl) muttering ‘tick tock’ to introduce a return to a sharper sound. Last year’s single ‘So So Happy Making’ gets thrown into the mixture mid-set. If it’s an albatross – there’s a certain sense that Hatcham would rather be playing newer material, and Toby abandons the microphone halfway through the second chorus – it’s a golden one, which any band would kill to have hanging around their necks: the chord changes, the harmonies, and the instrumentation (listen to the keys chime around the guitar!) are still sheer pop genius, and the title is as relevant as ever.
As if to prove that the band have got more, though, Finn Kidd launches into a breakneck rhythm as soon as the last chords have died, and a shredding guitar weaves in and out of a breathless ‘what’s mine is mine’ chorus – a confrontational follow-up to the obligatory hit single. The set takes a turn for the darker from there on in: ‘Jabberwocky’ broods and threatens, and Lewis Carroll’s nonsense rhymes and a maniacal laugh get wrapped rhythmically around the instrumental to make the recitation more nightmare than dream. ‘In My Opinion’ adopts a similar intensity, with Toby Kidd staring menacingly across the audience while Dave Fineberg wrestles the bassline into submission, and, at the conclusion of ‘Give Me The Gift’ - already a standout track with its intimately epic builds and peaks – there’s a muttered thanks and the indie pop crusaders disappear, leaving the audience bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, but certainly not begrudging the entrance fee – a paltry six pounds for the first truly great concert of the year.
You Dig The Tunnel, I'll Hide The Soil is out on 9th March on Fierce Panda.