Hard-Fi - Once Upon A Time In The West

Stas Werno 05/09/2007

Rating: 5/5

Whatever you may have thought about 'Stars of CCTV', it is undeniable that Hard-Fi achieved the now oh so rare feat of producing an entire record of potential singles. This put the more successful indie bands of 2005 to shame, showing the world that there are still people out there who can make complete albums, rather than gain stardom off the back of a couple of catchy tunes. For any other modern indie pop group this would prove a bad move. You see, the trick these days is to spread any tracks you have that are likely to hit top 10 across two or three LP's, interspersed with bland filler in order to prolong your life span and fulfill the contract to your label. After all, what with i-tunes, who actually buys whole albums any more anyway?

So it would make sense that front man Richard Archer foolishly used up all his 'bangers' the first time round. Logically, 'Once Upon A Time In The West' should pass by pretty much unnoticed: in fact i've already heard legions of cynics ask the question, 'Shouldn't Hard-Fi be over by now?'. Rather politely, the new record is quick to answer that with a firm 'Absolutely not'. Archer claimed the band had closed their ears to new music during the recording of 'Once Upon A Time In The West' in order to create an album free of its influence. This strategy has lead to the birth of a blinder of a pop record.

The influence of The Clash seems to have been nudged slightly to one side, leaving room for songs that sound like anything from a filthy take on Muse on "I Close My Eyes", to 'Innuendo' era Queen on "Watch Me Fall Apart", via uplifting future classics 'Television' and 'Can't Get Along Without You'. Whilst the odd house beat or dub echo is still thrown into the mix to keep the tracks sounding distinctly 'Hard-Fi', what makes me so adamant that this record is going to exponentially multiply their fan base is how much of a genuine pop record it really is. In fact several tracks, specifically 'I Shall Over Come', album closer 'The King' and their best song to date 'Tonight', could easily appear on a certain Taurine loving entertainers album without a single eyelid batted by a member of his crazed fan base.

Another trend amongst the modern indie band is what I like to call 'doing a Radiohead'. It's what happens when they run out of chartable songs, and they panic. They cover up their newly found inability to write great melodies by throwing a ton of 'credible electronica influences' into the mix, hoping the beeps and pads will provide sufficient cover for what would otherwise be nothing more than incredibly dull reworkings of their previous material. Whilst the Oxfordshire five piece have enough genius between them to pull it off, it generally marks the beginning of the end for the less fortunate bands. What's so refreshing about 'Once Upon A Time In The West' is that it shows us a band who have enough confidence in their abilities to take the other road, the one signposted with "We are fucking good at writing pop music, and we will continue doing so for a long time."