Hard-Fi Once Upon A Time In the West

Hard-Fi Once Upon A Time In the West
Just two years ago, Staines, London’s Hard-Fi appeared with their debut, Stars of CCTV, a spirited throwback to the sophisticated rock of the Clash and the baggy bop of Madchester that was distinct yet desired; it sold a bundle. But now something doesn’t seem so right. Once Upon A Time In the West, their follow-up, doesn’t arrive with any sort of momentum, other than some imposing cover art that demonstrates their politics haven’t suffered from their success. No longer are they the flavour of the week but something tells me the hard-working neighbours to Ali G couldn’t care less. Once Upon A Time is the band continuing to bite with direct social commentary ("Suburban Knights” confronts the ignorant, affluent ’burbs) while honing their expansive arsenal of rock motifs. Nothing is quite as immediate as CCTV’s quick-to-the-punch singles platter but they certainly show their ability to advance in the studio. "Watch Me Fall Apart” has the grandiose orchestral stroke that makes a Bond theme so dramatic and "Can’t Get Along” jumps into a Motown time warp with an army of horns and strings; it’s their best moment yet. "I Shall Overcome,” on the other hand, recalls CCTV’s robust choruses and dub flirtations, ensuring they aren’t looking to reinvent themselves. However, they still can’t pen a ballad; "The King” is a lifeless buzz-kill waiting to be knocked off any iTunes playlist. On the whole, Hard-Fi pull off another solid album that hopefully won’t be overshadowed by its horrific artwork. (Atlantic)