Hard-Fi live at the Ambassador, Dublin

In frontman Richard Archer , Hard-Fi possess a wry, self-aware lyricist, with a gift for poetic bluntness. Musically, however, they remain some way short of virtuoso status – melodies plod when they might soar; their debt to reggae-flavoured post-punk can tip into pastiche.

Hard-Fi would seem to have inadvertently patented a new genre: blue collar emotive pop. The grit and grime of the everyday cakes their music – were Ken Loach a 20-something musician with a hard-on for The Clash and 2Tone, he’d probably be writing grainy anthems in the vein of Hard-Fi’s ‘Living For The Weekend’, a wistful chronicle of binge drinking and post-pub dust-ups outside 24-hour petrol stations.

Clearly, the Staines band have struck a chord among what political writers used to call the masses. Released with scant hype 12 months ago, their debut, Stars Of CCTV, has achieved multi-platinum sales and a Mercury Prize nomination. Last month, Hard-Fi became the first group to sell out five straight nights at London’s Brixton Academy on the back of a first album: without anyone quite noticing it, they have clambered onto rock’s A-list. Perhaps things are happening a little too suddenly. In frontman Richard Archer the quartet possess a wry, self-aware lyricist, with a gift for poetic bluntness. Musically, however, they remain some way short of virtuoso status – melodies plod when they might soar; their debt to reggae-flavoured post-punk can tip into pastiche.

Complacency may also be creeping in. Playing their largest Irish headline show yet, Hard-Fi appear to treat the date as a post-Brixton victory lap, not realising that a five night stand at a mid-level UK venue means diddly squat to most in the audience. Six months ago, this group would have sweated for our approval. Now they apparently think it their due.

Then there’s the mid-point faux pax : Archer starts wittering on about Dublin being the last stage on the group’s British Isles tour and the crowd erupts into hisses. He takes a step back, genuinely mystified. Not quite the people’s band after all.

 

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