Oh, the difficult second album. Hard-Fi made waves in 2004 with their debut Stars of CCTV, with their exciting blend of Clash-esque rock and Daft Punk-y beats. For the most part, Stars of CCTV was a terrific record, save for some misguided Oasis balladry.
It seems as the band felt it was time to further explore the mid-tempo rock ballad, instead of perfecting the dancier side of things. The bulk of Once Upon a Time in the West is made up of the former. Those songs are, sadly enough, rather limp and lifeless.
The sharpest moments of the album are the fast numbers. Tracks like “Suburban Knights” and “Can’t Get Along (Without You)” have the same feel of tracks from CCTV, but comparatively, sound like b-sides. Much of the music feels as though Hard-Fi are already going through the motions; “Suburban Knights” is basically a rewrite of “Cash Machine”, whereas “We Need Love” sounds like a b-side of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”. As well, the band relies entirely too much on “oohs”, “ahs”, “heys” and “ohs” to carry their choruses.
Unable to recreate the energy of their debut, it looks as though Hard-Fi have fallen into that sophomore slump. Here’s hoping they have some new tricks up their sleeves to get them out.