Not Hard to Beat

                                         Published in The Student, March 22 2011

Now getting on for four years after the release of their second album, I thought it was safe to assume that self-proclaimed working class heroes Hard-Fi had finally decided not to bother with another album. Last week, however, they announced that were just about finished mixing most of the tracks, having already released the titles of the first seven tracks, each one a three-word prepositional banality: Bring It On, Give it Up, In My Head, etc.

It’s not even that they’re so middle of the road (though they are) that by now some absent-minded council worker should have painted a large white stripe down the centre of Richard Archer’s face or that the lyrics are trying so hard to be working class that they could have been ripped from a Coronation Street script (though they are), but what annoys me is that they presume to be the voice of the man in the street­ and produce shit songs in the process.

In Suburban Knights (do you see what they’ve done there? Put a ‘k’ in front of it, because they’re the crown princes of suburbia, you see. Dicks.) for example, you can hardly move for crass generalizations about ordinary working lives (“Suburban dreams/Just out of reach/Work till you die/That’s what they teach you at school”) and flacid attempts to be edgy and political (“A global terror/We are at war/But we don’t have time for that/’Cos the bills keep dropping through the door”).

In the same vein, in what must the worst mainstream song of the decade, Television pontificates on TV culture, the dishonesty of  our political system on on religion all in the same trite three lines: “Television, New religion, Let everyone sing Hallelujah/Politicians, Don’t wanna listen, they only wanna make money out of you/Hallelujah!!”).

Crass lyrics, however, do not a crap song make. Californian teenager Rebecca Black has this week been roundly fucked (critically) by all and sundry for her song Friday (“It’s Friday, Friday/Gotta get down on Friday/Everybody’s lookin’ forward to the weekend, weekend/Friday, Friday”) but she is just a spolit brat with rich parents trying to get famous. She’s not trying to be a sort of latter day musical Rosa Luxemburg.

In between some equally awful lines Hard-Fi is trying to something very much more – make some sort of comment about the state of the nation, about the way we live our lives, but does this in such a general, sweeping way – assuming that everyone who earns less than 20 grand a year spends all week working in a dead-end job and then all weekend getting pissed.  They try to speak for their class – a noble aim – but in doing so resort to such bland stereotype that they completely defeat themselves; essentializing and caricaturing their culture instead of defending and celebrating it.

There is a reason (this one) why an academic has thought it worth his while writing a book about The Smiths (‘Why Pamper Life’s Complexities?’: Essays on The Smiths by Sean Campbell, in case you were wondering) and you can study their lyrics on respected English literature courses and that nobody has yet written ‘We grew up teething on fags and booze’: Richard Archer and working class culture in late modern Britain.

Aside from the rubbish lyrics that fall far short of what they’re trying to do, most of their songs are  also terribly arranged.  Archer’s exaggerated Essex boi accent permeates everything and lines about drug addiction and bullying are completely undermined by jaunty harmonies, again completely undermining what they’re trying to do.
I’m running out of room now sand don’t have anything else to say, so I’ll just do what Hard-Fi do in the same situation: pick a word at random and repeat over and over again to fill the space. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers. Wankers.

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