All 2 entries tagged Ollie Smyth

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October 11, 2007

Hard–Fi – Once Upon A Time In The West

Title:
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

Ollie Smyth

I’ve always struggled to pinpoint Hard-Fi’s appeal. I mean they’re a band with a pretty shabby name and the sort of image that even Marks and Spencer wouldn’t touch.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to avoid the ‘difficult second album’ tag and the fact that Hard-Fi are a rather poor live outfit.

Nevertheless, the boys are back with another forty minutes worth of bold, cocky, and stomping tunes. Suburban Knights isn’t bad at all and is even now a regular feature in Evolve’s ‘indie’ room on a Thursday. It's followed by I Shall Overcome, a song with a pathetic chorus yet a rather charming chorus.

Lyrically there’s no real progression. Richard Archer is once again falling for strangers and then singing about it in a very bitter manner from start to finish.

Recent single Can't Get Along (Without You) being the perfect example. Let’s just hope Archer has some strong friends to see him through his constant heartache.

The perennial Hard-Fi background harmonies haven’t gone anywhere and neither has the brisk guitaring that was key to the success of debut Stars Of CCTV.

My housemate has labelled Television as genuinely the worst song he’s ever heard coming from my room. Jonathan is not a Hard-Fi fan. Unfortunately for the lads from Staines it’s probably one of the more memorable moments from the record.

It’s safe to say, however, that the powers that be at mainstream radio will love this collection of gritty, wishy-washy indie rock’n’roll songs.

In truth it’s the job of the slow ballads, Help Me Please and Tonight, to save the album from mid-top forty obscurity. The band are clearly capable of some thoughtful song writing which will no doubt lend to their accessibility.

Having spent a fair bit of time living once upon a time on a train with this album i hard not to think that the band could have, and really should of, delivered a more convincing effort.

Once Upon A Time In The West is also an incredibly hard album to place in one’s life. It’s certainly not the best going out music; neither are the band suited to library time.

Watch Me Fall Apart is quite a pleasant little song but only goes to further illustrate the tediousness of the Archer anguish.

Likewise, We Need Love, will no doubt soon hold a special place in the hearts’ of middle aged singletons everywhere.

This is a musically competent album and not an entirely bad effort. I know this sounds like a sixth-form Geography report but there’s not an awful lot more to say about this lot. I’ve often wondered if anyone actually missed Hard-Fi during their absence? Anyone?

I’ve since discovered Hard-Fi to be the perfect band to have to perfect shave to.

My copy has already been handed down to my little brother. So thanks, but no thanks.


October 09, 2007

Athlete – Beyond the Neighbourhood

Title:
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Ollie Smyth

Album number three was never going to be easy for the indie popsters from Deptford. Still living in the shadow of older siblings Coldplay, and after an absence of almost three years, expectations were high for both me and my mother. If 2003’s Vehicles And Animals provided the dream start, clumsy second album Tourist was more full of holes than Tottenham Hotspur’s defence has been of late. Opening instrumental, In Between 2 States, is, quite frankly, rubbish. Thankfully for Mr Joel Pott, the combination of Hurricane and Tokyo saves the first third of the album from obscurity.

Its Not Your Fault represents the record’s strongest song and sees Athlete at their jauntiest best. It’s the kind of sustained quality of tune that the band need to master to make the step up from festival opener, to festival closer. Echoes of “Oh my God, what the hell just happened?” have already become a live favourite feature of Athlete shows since their live return to London’s Koko back in July. The excellent up-tempo In The Library is set to be the song that sees me through the summer exam period. Who would have thought that Athlete would ever write songs about swimming around academic institutions in far off fairytale lands? Not me.

Of course, Beyond The Neighbourhood would not be an Athlete album if it wasn’t scattered with the odd mediocre song and there are plenty of them here.

Flying Over Bus Stops sees the bands infatuation with travelling and all things holiday continue in a rather poor fashion. Its also the hardest Athlete song to sit through since the wonderful Westside brought the band the attention they’d craved since their amalgamation back in 1999. We’re even subjected to listening to Pott lament about the sound of his own voice during the album’s closer This Is What I Sound Like.

Pott, Willets, Roberts and Wanstall have always been ones to end on a low and this latest moan joins Le Casio and I Love in the Athlete slow-album-ender hall of fame. Nevertheless, the wagonwheel of further success could be round the corner with everyone from MTV2 to Hello magazine rallying round this, Athlete’s second best, or second worst album to date.

Pott’s voice has always had an element of marmite to it. More charisma than Chris Martin yet lacking the originality of Alex Turner. Its also a sad fact widely known that Athlete will never enter the same musical bracket as Coldplay, nor Arctic Monkeys. And yet even some of the weakest songs on the album hold a certain element of charm to it. I was even convinced that Best Not To Think About It was written about me for the best part of a week over the summer.

If you’re yet to enter the world of Athlete then Beyond The Neighbourhood is not a bad place to start. The foursome have matured over the years and even acquired a love for the unspoilt British coastline along the way. The band has certainly put up a good challenge to capture the mainstream market. Memorable choruses and artwork strangely reminiscent of X&Y just might do it. Come the summer the big festival fields will be calling yet its unlikely that the sun will have gone down by the time countless numbers of middle-aged couples start singing along to Wires.

Athlete’s trademark sound of wholesome lyrics, complacent percussion, vaguely anthemic choruses and experimental keyboards look to have firmly established the group in the British indie-pop industry.

This review appeared in Issue 1 of the *Warwick Boar*


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