Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Hard-Fi, Once Upon a Time in the West

You’ve had your whole life to come up with that first album.  You’ve worked the songs over and over; played them countless times in front of live audiences.  You’ve refined the songs and you’ve hard fihad more than enough practice playing them.  The tunes are good and you play them well.  You make a record.  It’s a success now you’re hot.  Now you have an audience beyond your home town – people who have never seen you play.  Now you have a record contract.  And they want a new record.  Immediately.  What do you do now?

The sophomore album.  When the first record is successful, the second can make or break a group.  Some bands let their initial success go to their heads and put out a self-indulgent collection of garbage the second time out.  Others bow to record company pressure and do just what they did the first time because the company believes that if it sold once, it will sell twice.  And then there’s the few who seize the opportunity provided by their initial success to break out.  They do some tracks in the mode of what they did before to establish their base and satisfy their fans and then they reach beyond their earlier boundaries to show the world they are more than originally thought.  Kaiser Chiefs did it on their sophomore album “Yours Truly, Angry Mob“.  And Hard-Fi is going for it on “Once Upon a Time in the West”. 

Hard-Fi is a quartet from Staines, England (how’s that for the name of a town?)  Five hundred copies of their self-released first album “Stars of CCTV” created buzz and got them a record contract.  They were terrific live and got gigs opening for The Bravery and Kaiser Chiefs.  They knocked them dead at Glastonbury.  “Stars of CCTV” was nominated for the Mercury Prize.  Hard-Fi’s music on “Stars of CCTV” was guitar driven rock featuring sharp hooks and solid songcraft.  All of that is in place on “Once Upon a  Time . . ” but they have greatly expanded their palette of stylistic influences and lyrical concerns.  On the new album they give us ballads, political songs, synths, and multi-tracked vocal sing-alongs in addition to the rockers about the boredom of life in the suburbs.  Throwing caution to the winds they go for a bigger sound, a bigger audience and a career as something more than another example of a better than average flavor-of-the-month band.  And they hit it.  “Once Upon a Time . .” sounds good on first listen, holds interest over repeated listens, and has melodies you find yourself humming when the CDs not on.  Carpe diem, baby.

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11/19/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

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