The consensus among the national music rags seems to be that this bunch of skank-slinging Staines boys are leading the pack in the race to be crowned as ‘Specials mark II' - a sprint which, in all honesty, doesn't seem so tough when the only other contenders you've got snapping at your restless heels are the Dead 60s. However, while their Anglo-dub forebears chose to plunder exotic Caribbean climes for their rhythms, Hard-Fi seem more inclined to look East; a more sinister undercurrent winds its way through second single ‘Tied Up Too Tight'. Layers of neat strings, group vocals, aggravated guitar and the obligatory rumbling bassline dress what is essentially the age-old suburban getaway song up in kaftans and sandals; this theme persists in war-story B-side ‘Middle Eastern Holiday'.
B-side number 2, a cover of ‘Seven Nation Army', smoulders with lagered-up intent, lending the original a sense of threat that perhaps makes it the best song of the three here. Staking out the suburban jungle, the second, whispered vocal track echoes the voice of reason nagging at the hostile impulses of every would-be hollygon in ‘Spoons and the local fried-‘chicken' pit on Friday night... think Jack White stumbling through the front door stinking of snakebite and Bensons.
The A-side, the band's second after the widely over-lauded ‘Cash Machine', continues along similar themes of provincial frustration and provincial escape; and is, like the first single, decent-enough. But while Hard-Fi leave bands like the Dead 60s trailing in their wake, there is still something missing. Maybe it is the soul-destroying mundanity of their hometown, (and believe me I know, I've been there and it is a complete shit-hole), translating too literally into song, but there is a charismatic void that needs filling before they are even mentioned in the same breath as the Specials. Note the pseudo-Strummer howling and dubious ad-libs punctuating ‘Tied Up Too Tight' as examples of vacant personality that see them fall short of the position others are trying to shoehorn them into, (i.e. rabble-rousing spokesband for Nowheresville 2005). That said, those are high expectations to meet, and this is an over-par flash of low-frequency rock action that will surely sound twice as good when summertime hits in Blighty.