Posts Tagged ‘Hard-Fi’

I haven’t reviewed an album in what must be knocking on two years. This tragic hiatus from the world of amateur music journalism can largely be attributed to the fact that I haven’t even bought a CD in half of that time. Jack White Blunderbuss may well have been my last purchase to date. Jesus!

Rather, these days my bank balance at ATMs tends to read “don’t make plans you’re broke” a la Hard Fi – Cash Machine. In spite of my economic woes, I cobbled together enough disposable income at the end of last month to live for the weekend and make a long-awaited addition to my record collection. On recommendation from my brother I went for Franz Ferdinand’s fourth installment entitled Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action (RTRWRA).

Right all round - Franz Ferdinand's third album.

Right all round – Franz Ferdinand’s third album.

Ok, first things first, I acknowledge that my review has arrived a little late – RTRWRA was released in August 2013. Nevertheless, this record has gone so far to rekindling my love for scratchy guitar music that I believe it merits a mention on this space!

On first impressions, I agree whole-heartedly with Tonedeth in that this isn’t a record that will blow you away. This is a record to blow your whole bloody house and all its content away! No, that is an exaggeration too far – in all honesty RTRWRA is a typical Franz Ferdinand album; nothing more, nothing less.

Contra to the way the old saying goes, Alex Kapranos et al. keep managing to reinvent the wheel… but rather well at that. The Franz wheel is now an embellished one; featuring sublime traction courtesy of their second album You Could Have It So Much Better and sparkling alloys afforded by their stonking third record Tonight.

All in all, RTRWRA is a classic 10-song serving of indie rock – a brand of music which any reader of Riot on the Radio will know I am more of a sucker to than a baby is a dummy. ‘Music for the dance floor’ or ‘for a night of hedonism’ as Free Girl in Paris so elegantly yet accurately puts it. Never is there a dull moment, from the fruity twangs of Fresh Strawberries to the incessantly probing Bullet. Textbook ‘This Fire’-esque opening riffs are omnipresent in tunes such as Treason! Animals in contrast to the gorgeous slow-burner that is The Universe Expanded. As A. D. Elliott states over at ‘The Remarkables’ – every song is worthy of a repeat.

The Glaswegian quartet always had a little too much style and originality to survive the post-2008 cull of indie bands. Whereas The Horrors tweaked their sound and acts like The Vaccines arose to target the teenage fanbase; Franz have just stuck to the same formula. And why not? After all, this is a tried and tested formula that ‘took out’ the nation in 2004!

As if I haven’t sung their praises enough already, FF are signed to Domino Records, the label responsible for (amongst others) Arctic Monkeys, Hot Chip, Villagers and Animal Collective. What’s more, lead singer Kapranos produced the third album, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, for another favourite outfit of mine, The Cribs. And to wrap it all off, I’m reliably informed by Wikipedia that the Franz frontman spends his time outside of recording/touring in a carpentry workshop crafting ‘abstract furniture’. Hence, on the basis of this triple whammy, I wish to boldy proclaim Alex Kapranos as a ‘treasure’ – a status that I recently assigned to Alex Turner.

Apparently, and unsurprisingly, RTRWRA is equally good live. Me for one, I can’t wait to sample it. Right on!

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Another visit to town, another baffling experience in HMV. Just what is the thinking behind the music megastore’s pricing system? 

To illustrate my point, yesterday I bought Killer Sounds by Hard-Fi for a bargain £5.99 while their two previous efforts were set in stone at £10. Reverend & The Makers’ 2007 debut The State Of Things was still lingering at the purse-emptying £15 mark along with White Lies To Lose My Life… in Christmas 2010. There are endless examples to reel off but I shall not bore thou art.

So expensive I want to commit suicide.

It strikes me that some late shift lunatic has been allowed free-reign with a sticker gun, so random and changeable are HMV’s CD prices. 

The worst thing is the lack of consistency and chronology in prices between HMV’s high street and internet shopping. The same two Hard-Fi albums referenced before can be purchased online for £8 with free delivery and not a calorie of energy expended. Bizarrely, The Horrors earliest effort Strange House is £2.50 more expensive than their 2nd sleeve Primary Colours, and is £1.50 dearer than their most recent release Skying. Where is the sense in that? Is it any wonder that record sales have switched so dramatically towards downloads in recent years!? Thank goodness Waterstone’s was never plagued by the pricing travesty during the two stores’ joint ownership. 

Let’s give HMV some credit. Their 2 for £10 offer is like gold dust and gets hoovered up faster than laminate floors. While great for presents, it’s agonising to see an album halved in price the week after you have snapped it up at the cost of 2 hours wages.

You are probably thinking, get real man. Pricing is determined by bulk of stock and customer demand. Common sense and not music should be at the back of your MIND! As the Reverend Jon McClure notes, the music industry is suffering a self-inflicted demise. So bad are the state of things. 

Well, I say [radically], let us start a vinyl revival! Let us blow the cobwebs off our parent’s antique record player. Let us bring back the LP and make the retro trendy once again. 

Hard-Fi turn Hindustani on Killer Sounds number Feels Good

After a four year hiatus, Hard Fi are back to ruffle some more feathers with their third effort Killer Sounds.

Despite the ruthless media received by second album Once Upon a Time in the West, it was still a number one record. For some the stale stories of suburbia coupled with (no) cover art cockiness were a poor recipe. Others felt the Staines supremos delivered a decent follow-up to their Mercury-nominated debut, a record they were always unlikely to eclipse.

Here Hard-Fi continue their progression, blending dance-punk sounds often in sensational soundclash style like on Sweat and with a Hindustani sitar on Feels Good. Recurring references to politicians, war, Friday nights, the working class and thinning money will inevitably fuel critic’s calls of a lyrically-thin album. But Killer Sounds only claims to be ear candy, not poet laureate material.

Good for Nothing is in equal measures a swaggering anthem and a pugnacious statement. Presumably it’s Richard Archer’s message to the archetypal music critic who amongst other things “just talks, never listens, complains about his love of music, and don’t like him because he don’t fit”. But Archer is in fighting mood. “Tell me are you happy? What are you good for?” he demands to know. As if to acknowledge the band’s burgeoning Latin American fanbase he translates the main message into Spanish, “bueno para nada”.

Starting off more Fedde Le Grand than The Jam, it’s obvious who Fire in the House is meant for: a club-coiffured cocktail of lyrical smoothie if ever I’ve heard one, to carton alongside The Killers’ Mr Brightside. “We danced all night, we kissed all night” Archer smooches on the second single which sees their much-mentioned dance influence come to the fore.

Title track Killer Sounds maintains the fine Hard-Fi tradition of acoustic album-closers, adding to Stars of CCTV and The King. “You’ve gotta play it cool, real cool, you’ve gotta let frustration be a friend to you” reckons Archer who has faced a fair bit himself since 2007.

Sweat & Fire in the House are the sort of buzzwords usually exploited by mediocre rappers not supposed indie rockers, no offence Snoop Dogg. Bring It On and Give It Up are killer tunes, throbbing with energy. Love Song has refreshing punch, though Excitement fails to justify its name and is instead a class A example of an experimental B-side.

Recently I saw a gig listing for Hard-Fi describing the band’s music as “kitchen-sink” soul pop. What this implies I am unsure. Perhaps it was an insinuation that their produce is destined for the plughole rather than the earhole. On this evidence I would strongly suggest not.

Exactly what is says on the tin.