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Hard-Fi Once Upon A Time In The West Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Staines' finest return with a more thoughtful collection...

Lou Thomas 2007

Attitudes to maturity vary for obvious reasons. We expect it from our colleagues, hope to see it in our children and ourselves (on some emotional level, at least) but don’t always want it seeping from our speakers.

Neil Young, Nick Cave and Bob Dylan have achieved greatness with their own grown-up perspectives but most great pop and rock acts should stay young and vital.

All of which makes Hard-Fi’s second album something of a mixed blessing. What made Hard-Fi such an exciting prospect to so many to begin with, was their vitality. Their debut, Stars Of CCTV, was filled with urgent sucker punches of high street angst like “Tied Up Too Tight” and “Cash Machine”, but here there is plenty of depth and poignancy, perhaps resulting, at least partly from the death of frontman Richard Archer’s mother between LPs.

From the start of the record it’s clear the same themes occupy the Staines trio, with “Suburban Knights”’ lyrics encapsulating the stifling net curtain twitch as well as anything on Stars..., with the key line, ‘Suburban dreams/just out of reach’. The angst and claustrophobic nature of the ‘burbs is laid on thickly throughout, but particularly neatly executed on “Watch Me Fall Apart”. Archer sings, ‘Every Smiling Face brings me down’, while the music grandly sweeps past like incidental music in a Moscow-set spy movie. Mixing such a big sound with the small concerns of the provinces works well.

Elsewhere, the band have clearly taken a leaf out of Kasabian’s book. The lairy Leicester band clearly share some indie DNA with Staines mob Hard-Fi as it is. Both are ace live bands, write anthems and retain a punky yet clearly dance-influenced sound, though while Kasabian want to be the new Oasis, HF would love to be The Clash of the noughties.

The newest similarity has to be the wordless singalong moment that Kasabian had made their own. Five of the eleven tracks on Once… include such chants, with the best being “We Need Love”, a pumped-up glam swagger of the sort that gobs out its chewing gum into the gutter before addressing you. Top stuff.

West London’s punkiest dub disciples have delivered the goods with their songwriting, stepped up a notch on the production front and crammed memorable hooks on their sophomore LP. Yet though Hard-Fi’s outlaw spirit remains intact, as the Sergio Leone movie title and occasional melodica bursts may suggest, anyone wishing for a riot may be disappointed.

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