Southampton Guildhall - December 2005

Images: ©2005 Stuart Leech - www.music.stuartleechphotos.co.uk

by Stuart Leech

It’s impossible to pigeonhole this band; nominated for the Mercury Music Prize earlier this year and a sell out UK tour mainly off the back of a couple of singles isn’t bad going. Hailing from Staines, their music really epitomises the current working class culture; touching on many of the same themes covered by The Streets but in a more melodic and less hardcore way. When they come on stage it's clear that they love every second. The sound is wide and varied wearing many influences on its sleeve, including reggae and dub. Add this to the subject matter and you have the soundtrack for a yob culture. Front-man Richard Archer is wired and, at stages, is practically scrapping with the guitarist. This band have a lot to thank the Mercury Music Prize for. It has enabled them direct access to a market less likely to have bought into their music without it. There are young fans who treat them as another pin-up indie band alongside The Killers and Coldplay but they also attract dance and rap orientated fans. The atmosphere is equally diverse. Sometimes like a rock concert sometimes like a dancehall, it’s hard to know what to think of Hard-Fi. The fact that you aren’t confronted with an immediately recognisable format makes it hard to determine a place for them... and yourself as a spectator. Their mass appeal may alienate some fans but for those here tonight, they couldn’t want for much more. The singles are fantastic and even better live, as Archer spits venom into the vocals. The other album tracks can be a little dull if you aren’t familiar with them and hearing them live probably won’t make you want to listen to them again. You really have to make your own mind up about Hard-Fi. Much like Marmite: You’re either gonna love ‘em or hate ‘em.