A few times a week, Gothamist publishes music reviews by our contributor Jeff Baum. The opinions below belong entirely to the author.
Hard-Fi appears to have a bit of an identity crisis. They've found a bit of success in the UK and seem to be making a big push towards America. When I saw them back in July at Mercury Lounge, I was completely blown away by the energy and stage presence. To their credit, they don't sound like everyone else. They have their own thing going on...perhaps best described as The Clash meets, um, the Backstreet Boys? But hey, they've got some songs and they can get a crowd to move, so I'm not one to judge. The problem here is not their sound, which for the most part works, but that their image has gotten stuck right between the aforementioned band stereotypes. Whiteboy R&B meets dirt-grit punk? An interesting concept sonically...but really hard to swallow when seen on stage.
I have no reason to believe these guys aren't truly punk at heart. Everything I read leads me to believe that they are from an extremely sketchy part of England. They look like they were raised by the streets...not in some Disneyworld thug dress-up way with lots of visible tattoos, piercings or crazy hair, but there's a genuine roughness with the way they carry themselves. So please please please someone explain to me why they felt the need to do the whole elaborate flashy light show. Sure, it makes for some spectacular photos, but it just didn't fit! Here are these 4 guys who have successfully convinced me they are legit, but then come out on stage to dramatic lighting while instructing everyone to clap their hands and dance along, I was one Everybody say whoh-oooh away from walking straight out of the club. And this is tough because I really liked these guys not 6 months ago when they acted like punks playing dance music. It was genuine and completely stood up on it's own. Now they looked like dancers playing punk. They've chosen to present themselves as a perverse amalgamation of genres that simply did not work or do them justice. I enjoy a pretty light show as much as the next guy, and maybe this approach will help them reach a crossover audience and propel them to superstardom, but it completely went over my head.