Sherpa not included.
Scaling the heights of Beatle-pop is no cinch. But these guys make it seem easy. They're fab!

 

Scottish quartet's debut is produced by Charlie Francis of The High Llamas.

Side One, track one, the mordantly plunging riff from The Kinks' Sunny Afternoon tips you off that here is a band for whom, like the song says, "going round and round in circles" is as much stylistic as it might be existential. But that riff, The Beach Boys harmonies later on, The Motors-style powerpop of the band's first single Peace Of Mind - red herrings all. This album is among the most devout genuflections to The Beatles' shrine yet heard - and one of the very best.

Fabbologists will already have spotted the clues: Everest was the working title for Let It Be, opening number Circles also happens to share a name with a great lost Harrisong, the closing Up Against It takes its title from Joe Orton's Beatles movie screenplay. And who are people who Dig A Pony if not Diggers?

But the grooves themselves yield the most vivid tokens of ancestral worship. Avoiding Jeff Lynne-style bolted-on Beatlesque cellos, these Scots have, with barely more than the guitar-based four-piece palate to play with, nailed the trademark licks down pat - those Girl ooh-la-la-la harmonies, the tuneful yet rockin' guitar fills, an ear for a key change clearly schooled by long nights glued to the second side of Abbey Road. More impressively, they seem moved by the authentic spirit. Angling songs round the theme of cheer arising from a mood of wistful regret - it's getting better all the time - they achieve the rare distinction of crafting the melodies to carry that weight.

The natural balance of the band tips them towards three parts Paul to one part everyone else.

The Diggers may yet be the only Beatle disciples for whom the bossa nova ballad style of And I Love Her is worth revisiting straight-faced - and their version, Downbeat, is genuinely touching. Never quite so archly cute as those other recent and likewise frighteningly accomplished Macca-likes, Jellyfish, only on the new single OK All Right does the marmalade-skied optimism evaporate to a mannered Perfect Poppiness equivalent of Supergrass on a bad day (or The Boo Radleys on a good).

Bassist Alan Moffat sings most lead parts, with, in descending order of contribution, rhythm guitarist Chris Miezitis, lead guitarist John Eslick and drummer Hank Ross chipping in, seraphically well-worked harmonies a speciality. You will hear no Lennonesque abrasion - Creation labelmates Oasis got the Liam's share there - and so therefore this album charms rather than kicks you hard in the vitals. But, among a dozen never less than winning, memorable songs, there is a killer-diller: They Said I'd Know - at once soothing and uplifting, melancholy and heavenly. Had we heard it on Anthology 3, no-one would have felt it was out of place. The only question would be how come it didn't make the cut on Abbey Road and Octopus's Garden did?

Mat Snow - Mojo March 1997

 

 

No Diggetty

Cute Scottish guitar gurus The Diggers release their OK Alright single next week. We bashed lead singer Alan over the head with a haggis and dragged him off for a chat...

OK Alright is quite a sad song, isn't it?

"Yeah, it's about splitting up with your girlfriend. Chris from the band wrote from experience. It's good to get things like that out of your system - otherwise you'll just get angry and punch someone."

What's with calling yourself The Diggers? Have you got some kind of building site obsession?

"No. We're named after a group of people who lived in San Francisco in the '60s. They did street theatre and set up soup kitchens for the homeless. Bands should do more of that."

But you've got a reputation for living it large haven't you?

"Some of the things we get up to would make your toes curl. When you're surrounded by blokes, you get up to loadsa mischief."

You're on Oasis' label. Have you met 'em?

"Yup and they're not as rock and roll as us. But I do feel a bit sorry for Liam, he's under an awful lot of pressure."

Awwf What a caring soul!

Just Seventeen, January 29th 1997

 

 

 When Push Comes to Shovel

 

They've been described as 'Badfinger on downers' by label and tour-mates Super Furry Animals ('Badfinger were the most depressed band ever. Two guys hanged themselves - and we're Badfinger on downers!"), but they prefer "caber-tossing Fife soap-dodgers".

The Diggers are the latest bucolic melancholics to give a broken heart a smiling face, or a scathing diatribe an uplifting three-part harmony. Yup, it's the old down lyrics/up music interface.

Caber-tossing Fife soap-dodgers

"Contradictions are natural," says guitarist John Eslick. "Everyone's got contradictions so a band should have contradictions. Because you write sweet music doesn't mean you have to sit in and read poetry all the time."

"Look at the composers," agrees drummer Hank Ross, "every one of them had ten mistresses and drug problems and they were writing symphonies."

"There's hope for you yet, Chris," singer Alan Moffat tells co-vocalist and guitarist Chris Miezitis.

There's hope for you yet, Chris

The Glasgow-based quartet have just released their first single, 'Peace Of Mind', a sweet hate song for our times inspired by Dylan's and Lennon's bitterest, beautiful moments and delivered by Alan in his rich Roddy Frame-esque tones.

Like other Diggers songs, it provides proof-positive that the foursome have soaked themselves in classic melodic pop without getting waterlogged.

In fact, they've also grown up listening to their parents' dodgy MOR records from the '70s. Chris rates Wings as, "better than The Beatles", while Alan enthuses about the likes of Bread, and unsurprisingly relates that, "folk listen to the single and think we're all 35-year-old muso big shot musicians with beards which we stroke all day, when in actual fact we're teen gods."

We could be talking old heads on young shoulders here. Alan agrees to an extent.

...in actual fact we're teen gods

"I've always been pretty old for my age. I was always thinking too much, taking things too seriously and losing my rag all the time. Chris isn't like that. I think you're quite immature for 23..."

Chris: "That's cool. I'm happy." However, The Diggers are not making cobwebbed Dadrock. Their breezy sound is more in keeping with the lyrical delights of Glen Campbell and the like.

"It's a vocal sound," says Alan.

"Most records you hear, the guitars are in the foreground fighting with the singer."

"But the first time you hear a song, 80 per cent of what you hear is the vocal," says John, "so don't cover it up with drum sounds and fuzzy guitars."

"We've been listening to stuff like Hall & Oates and Crosby, Stills & Nash," says Alan, dropping another of those unashamedly untrendy references. "We've used the fifth harmony on the album. It's the one that monks wouldn't sing because they thought it was the devil's harmony, but it's still pure pop." That's The Diggers' recipe: melodies from heaven, harmonies from hell, influences from purgatory.

Fiona Shepherd, NME, August 31st 1996

 

 

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