Hard-Fi
Once Upon A Time In The West


3.0
good

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
August 29th, 2007 | 21 replies | 8,908 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Staines indie-rockers aim to impress, but only succeed sporadically.

It's perhaps a backhanded compliment to say that it's easy to feel something, whatever it is, towards Hard-Fi. The time that they arrived amidst the overcrowded British post-punk revival was either perfect or terrible, depending on how you view things; they arrived too late to be considered innovators or originals, but early enough to beat their nearest rivals into the charts. Hard-Fi's tales of living in a modern British inner-city, surrounded by drunks and druggies, was innovative for all of 4 months in 2005, until they were thoroughly usupred from the limelight by the Arctic Monkeys in January 2006. However, they got there first, and the likes of "Hard To Beat", "Cash Machine", and "Stars of CCTV" have at least endured as pop songs until now. This is a success, albiet a relatively minor one. But their genre has become overcrowded since then, and several bands (The Futureheads, Bloc Party, etc.) have fallen foul of a poor second album.

So, needless to say, the onus was on Hard-Fi to improve on this album, especially since it seems that many people are expecting, if not willing, them to fail. Whether they actually have improved or not is another matter. Once Upon A Time In The West is certainly a step away from Stars of CCTV, displaying both a decidedly more personal edge from Richard Archer and an expanded vision, both lyrically and sonically. The effort the band have put into this release can't be faulted - to quote two early examples, "I Shall Overcome" gently expands on the template of their debut by adding a more gentle style of singing, a mildly flashy guitar solo, and snappy acoustic guitars that instantly make the whole thing sound like French cult heroes Phoenix, and "Tonight" is a piano-led track that sports a skittering, nervous drum beat that almost moves the band into trip-hop territory, and a string quartet livening up the second half of the track.

And yet, despite the progression and the impressive stylistic range on display, there still seems to be something holding the band back from greatness. As harsh as it is to highlight a single band member, the lyrics are most frequently to blame; while the sentiment and the commitment are solid, the exeuction is occasionally trite. "Suburban Knights", the lead single, shows that clearly enough when it provides one of the year's most unintentionally hilarious moments. The bulk of the song is clearly designed to sound as much like Stars of CCTV, in particular "Hard To Beat", as possible, but the band drop a clanger and a half when the music breaks down to highlight Archer crooning the lines 'And those people who criticize us, well, we're only saying what we're seeing with our own eyes'. It's probably meant to sound tough, arrogant, defiant. It actually sounds petulant and pretty pathetic. The video makes this funnier, zooming in to Archer's face so we can see just how sincere he is. Yeah, people criticizing you hurts your feelings, man.

Though I've only mentioned the first three tracks so far, that's basically the story of the whole album. The band are consistently attempting to move forward, and they throw up much to savour - "I Close My Eyes" has a low-slung dirty bassline propelling the song, "Television" is a stab at a bruised ballad with a chanted chorus adding much needed contrast, "Can't Get Along (Without You)" is a surprisingly authentic Motown tribute, and "The King" is alternately folky and sweeping, with a guitar part that's not a million miles away from Metallica's "One". And yet, just as they look ready to really elevate themselves to another level, something stops them getting there. On "Television", it's the chorus, which seems oddly uninspired given how good the rest of the song is (the lyrics, again, falter here). On "Help Me Please", which melodically sounds a little like Arcade Fire's "Intervention", it's Archer's voice, which doesn't have the gravitas or character to pull off a ballad like this. On "We Need Love", it's simply the fact that it sounds a little too similar to the Kaiser Chiefs for comfort. True, some tracks are free of such glass cielings - "Can't Get Along (Without You)" and "The King" being the most notable - but too often, the band seems to find themselves incapable of going as far as they'd like to.

Although it's a little inferior to Stars of CCTV, Once Upon A Time In The West is a good album, make no mistake about that. The problem is that it's only good, and right now, that's not enough. The succession of British bands, or British-approved bands, moving into their second albums has in many cases thrown up a sharp realisation; is this band capable of a career, or not? Franz Ferdinand have succeeded with flying colours, The Killers and Scissor Sisters seem to have done just about enough, while The Bravey, The Futureheads, and Kaiser Chiefs have failed. Like Bloc Party, Hard-Fi sit confusingly almost exactly between the two extremes. Time, and the quality of their next outing, will tell whether or not this band will make it to a fourth album. If they do, it's their work ethic that they can thank. This album might not quite contain evidence of enough talent to truly make it big, but they seem to be trying harder than all of their contemporaries. That at least is something we can, and should, respect.



Recent reviews by this author
Krzysztof Penderecki and Jonny Greenwood Krzysztof Penderecki / Jonny GreenwoodLana Del Rey Paradise
Scott Walker Bish BoschEmilie Autumn Fight Like A Girl
Susanne Sundfor The Silicone VeilPepe Deluxe Queen of the Wave
user ratings (52)
Chart.
2.6
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
August 29th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's pretty much the worst thing on here. I get the impression that the record label told them to come up with something more like Stars of CCTV when they were presented with the other 10 songs on here.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2007


15737 Comments


I liked Cash Machine, but not enough to look into the band.

Digging: Ricky Eat Acid - Three Love Songs

ValiumMan
August 29th 2007


493 Comments


Staff people seem to be the only guys on this site who review all of those hyped-up new British bands (that don't interest me anyway, so why am I even commenting?). Good review.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2007


15737 Comments


It's a conspiracy. Once the staff takes over British independent rock, only the world is left to conquer.

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2007


6094 Comments


I bet Iai hears about these bands daily, so it shouldn't be altogether surprising.

Iai
Emeritus
August 29th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

ASSIMILATE

CONQUER

RULE

Nah, these bands are huge over here and across a lot of Europe, and I feel it's important to have reviews of them up. It's just that I seem to be the only person willing at the minute

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 29th 2007


6094 Comments


Or the only person who knows about them.

Two-Headed Boy
August 30th 2007


4527 Comments


Their first album was alright, so for the right price I might get this. Your review brought up some intriguing things, but I'm not expecting much.

Great work as usual.

Fort23
August 31st 2007


2475 Comments


good review, its gonna take me centuries to listen to all this stuff iare reviewedrated. damn.

Neoteric
September 1st 2007


3243 Comments


The album cover is stupid.

Plus the single is so boring...

Justanothernimrod
September 4th 2007


478 Comments


I hate this band, and now they're trying to be The Clash.

smokersdieyounger
September 4th 2007


672 Comments


I really hate stars of CCTV, and Cash Machine is one of my most hated singles, but I like the new single from this, so I might give this one a go.

Iai
Emeritus
September 4th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

How does that work? The single sounds EXACTLY like Stars of CCTV.

Justanothernimrod
September 5th 2007


478 Comments


he's got a point you know.

Iai
Emeritus
September 6th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So I just read all the monthlies while browsing in a shop, and this is getting really good reviews. Four stars in every magazine I looked at.

I guess that's probably because it's pretty difficult to explain what's actually wrong with the album.

gimo80
September 6th 2007


223 Comments


Yup it got a nice big juicy 4 in Q magazine.
But this is Q - they gave Razorlight and Arctic Monkeys both 5 -_-

burton.and.gas
September 6th 2007


641 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

These guys are anoteh over-hyped band with little sunstance to live up to it, i guess every1 loves it but not myself lol. That sed, most ppl knopw how i feel about britishness music, depsite being a brit.

Altmer
September 7th 2007


5652 Comments


you know I couldn't tell you were british burton.and.gas

Gazzmatazz
November 18th 2008


22 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album rocks too hard. I saw these guys play in support of their first album and they were a most shittiful live band. Then in support of this blazing piece of hot wax they were amazing. Goes to show that eh....sometimes bands suck live.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2011


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Following on from their million-selling Mercury-nominated debut LP, English outfit Hard-Fi attempt to navigate the difficult second album with 'Once Upon A Time In The West'. For the most part they do a solid job, even if it is not up to the standards of its predecessor. Everything here is bigger - slicker production, more bombastic music & more world-weary lyrics - which reduces the charm & relatable nature of the tunes. Yet, the quartet still ultimately deliver an enjoyable and consistent batch of 11 tracks with catchy hooks aplenty. Recommended Tracks: Suburban Knights, Can't Get Along (Without You), Watch Me Fall Apart & We Need Love.




You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy