Richard Archer, the leader of England’s Hard-Fi, claims there’s no point in being another indie band. “I’m not in competition with Razorlight or The Killers,” he says on the band’s Web site. “I’m in competition with Eminem.” The British music press seems to think he actually has a shot at Shady’s level of fame, and while anything they write needs to be taken with a fistful of salt, Hard-Fi’s hit DIY album “Stars of CCTV” has managed to outlast a lot of other similarly hyped new bands this year. Even American producer Rick Rubin has shown interest.
Sprung from the suburban netherworld of Staines, which some have described as “the armpit of Middlesex” and a “Heathrow backwash,” Hard-Fi produce the type of gritty dub-pop that goes over with kids who are, as one of the band’s singles puts it, “Living for the Weekend.” The songs have big, fat hooks and Archer sings about puppy love, being broke, and council flat life in a big, loud voice that could probably handle hip-hop if it wanted to but is satisfied with good old punk — the kind that ruled England before Margaret Thatcher did.
Though hardly political (the song about the Iraq War is personal, and the title cut, which refers to England’s infamous surveillance culture, is celebratory), Hard-Fi is certainly as socially relevant as The Who were back when they championed geeks and nerds. More significantly, they have the classic pop smarts to make such relevance mean something. This may be the last chance you’ll get to see them in a club.