London quartet Hard-Fi has definitely heard more than their share of Clash references, but after releasing their sophomore album Once Upon A Time In The West you can bet the band wants to have its own name.
Hard-Fi seems much more comfortable and relaxed on this album than on their debut Stars of CCTV. The band appears to feel unburdened by any high expectations, and the result is an enjoyable second-round effort that deviates from the raw and blunt truths of 70s punk, towards the more dreamy nights of 90s Britpop.
While there’s nothing wrong with those former or latter periods of British music history, you can sense the disappointment of certain fans as they finish listening to boy band-esque pseudo-ballad “I Shall Overcome.” I don’t even want to know their reactions to the somewhat experimental orchestral-ballad “Watch Me Fall Apart,” with its tale of heartbreak and lovelorn anguish (“Stick around whilst I default the loan / Watch me reap the pain that I have sown”).
As the album progresses, Hard-Fi steps so much further into Oasis territory, that you’d swear it was Liam Gallagher singing on “Help Me Please.” There’s nothing wrong with Oasis, but Hard-Fi doesn’t seem to have that same edge, especially if Richard is serenading to his long-gone love in the album closing “The King.” Even following a more traditional Hard-Fi track like the frustrated, full-of-attitude “Little Angel.” Sadly there aren’t enough of those rant and rave tracks, which makes the opening anthem “Suburban Knights” a blessing in disguise and the metaphorical “Television” lame, yet bearable.
I didn’t get all of the mushy love themes during my first go-around with CCTV, but I guess it was there, as it definitely exists in The West. There are two explanations: either Hard-Fi was really good at making love sound so much cooler in their debut, or the band just lost their cool within the two year span between albums.