Monday, October 08, 2007

Hard-Fi - Once Upon a Time in the West

Sophomore albums are quite the Catch-22 for highly acclaimed new bands, since they point to both where the band has been and where they could be going. Unfortunately, a lot of times they tend to go down and are sometimes forgotten about until they produce a more redeeming third album (if they get that chance at all). On the other hand a solid 2nd album can catapult a band to further stardom and place them on the musical map for years to come. Hard-Fi is a band that encountered this conundrum recently. The quartet from Staines, Surrey, England made one of the most talked about albums of 2005 with Stars of CCTV. Their music is a mix of post-punk, indie rock with a splash of Clash-esque verve. All wrapped up into a debut album that had the UK in tizzy. Their fame reached a fever pitch when they played 5 consecutive sold out shows at famed Brixton Academy from May 14 - 18, 2006. The only other bands to have done this are The Clash, Bob Dylan, Massive Attack, and The Prodigy. Not to mention Hard-Fi are the only ones to do it off the success of their debut album. With popularity reaching critical mass, their follow up effort Once Upon a Time in the West (Sept. 3, 2007) came highly anticipated.

Stars of CCTV was a really enjoyable album that showed a fresh sound from a rather normal suburban London band. The album was raw and full of energy that didn't gloss or shine with a huge studio budget. In essence, it really showcased what the band was about. Has fame gone to their heads? Has fame given them too much money for orchestration and studio gimmicks? Has fame gotten Hard-Fi away from what they do best? The answers to these questions seem to be a resounding 'Yes' when you consider the sophomore effort Once Upon a Time in the West. The album is pretty mediocre coming off such a great initial effort. There are a few songs that demonstrate the same swagger the band become known for. In its place for the remainder of the album are over-thought and over-produced songs with the same ideas, but presented with much less gusto. In an effort to sound like their idols The Clash, they effectively forget what they're all about and fall on their faces. Hard-Fi attempt to mix their influences together and really over-analyze what they want to do rather than going with gut reactions and emotions. They began making music because they weren't hearing any music that spoke to them about their lives. Now that they're (presumably) rich and famous their ethos of being regular suburban kids complaining about life doesn't seem to hold much water anymore. Time to sack up and make the grand gestures of the emblazoned "lack of" cover art equal to the music.

1 comment:

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