The topic of crowd-sourced funding for projects has been controversial. There are those (such as Darren Hayman, who gave his Belle And Sebastian records away in protest at Stuart Murdoch’s decision to source the budget for his God Help The Girl feature via Kickstarter) who view it as effectively begging, especially if done by those who’ve already made a tidy penny over the years. There are others – most notably the smaller bands – who view it as a lifeline, especially for those with a dedicated fanbase willing and able to help. It’s into this maelstrom that Hatcham Social release their second album, funded via a Pledge Music campaign.
As About Girls’ opening salvo NY Girl starts with its walls of guitars and underpinned with off-kilter tambourines it feels curiously dated, seemingly indebted not only to the wave of bandwagon-jumping acts riding the coat-tails of the Arctic Monkeys‘ success such as Milburn, but also to the mid-late ’90s. Those with keen ears will pick up hints of Oasis and The Charlatans.
It sets the tone for what’s to come, as sonically the record comes across as terribly lightweight. Contrived, even. Whilst there are areas that show promise (the choruses on Nicola Tells Me and Little Savage, Lois Lane motor along pleasantly enough) there just isn’t enough to consistently maintain interest throughout the record. There’s nothing ostensibly unpleasant about it per se – though certain moments do sound like The Inspiral Carpets have taken over the show – but there’s little else to recommend either. The equivalent of musical wallpaper, it passes by leaving few moments of genuine impression, and even fewer moments that can be classed as memorable.
Perhaps as a result of the musical constraints already detailed, the album suffers lyrically as well. Whereas certain songwriters or singers – Guy Garvey instantly springs to mind – can take a simple sentiment and express it either in their own individual way, or with enough conviction to give it extra meaning, those contained within About Girls appear uninspiring, bordering on the formulaic. In someone else’s hands the lyric “Don’t forget these words, they’re all that we have left” (Nicola Tells Me) could be transformed into an angst-ridden sentimental statement. But when wrapped in an unremarkable, breezy pop song it just doesn’t work. Elsewhere the improbably-titled I Look Like A God When You Dance With Me treats us to the couplet “I think there’s nothing else to so I will run around with you”. Wise words indeed.
About Girls doesn’t go out of its way to do anything wrong – it’s not unlistenable, nor offensive – it’s just that it doesn’t do a great deal right either. Inoffensive to the point of downright blandness, it possesses little to recommend purely because there’s little that makes any kind of worthwhile, lasting impression. With more individuality or unique features the album would have something going for it – there are fleeting moments of promise – but, as it is, it descends unabated into the realms of the unmemorable.