The Staines massive step up from being stars of CCTV to become the undisputed band of The People
Blue spotlights strafe the Astoria on the hunt for reprobates, deviants and social malcontents on the loose, finding about a thousand. We’re on every midnight street corner, back alley and Morrisons car park of every pedestrianised satellite town centre in Asbo Britain, except here the CCTV searchlights are tinted aquamarine.
Four dark figures shift in the corner of our eye, the rumble of boots and POW! Hard-Fi strike out of nowhere, like an ecstatic happy slap. Straight out of west London, loaded gun firing all chambers, they wallop us about the face and body with the terrifying Baghdad barbs of ‘Middle Eastern Holiday’ and we receive every pounding dub-punk thwack of it as gratefully as Gary Glitter at a face transplant clinic. First the blow, then an hour of euphoric dizziness, half-remembered heroics and so much mass pogoing you suspect that Westminster Council might have booked these gigs to save them demolishing the place themselves. Tonight Hard-Fi arrive: out of the surveillance screen, into the spotlight.
At the close of a triumphant and traumatic year for Richard Archer and his ‘crew’ of Heathrow Hoodie Heroes, selling out three Astorias in the space of half an hour is no small achievement. Indeed, that they did it without the help of stylistic forerunners, scenester leg-ups or even being able to spell “Epworth” makes it nothing short of a revolution. And why? Have they found in some random Burger King milkshake the sacred elixir of Chav Rock? Did they scientifically calculate the precise date and time that ska would become listenable again? Has the entire world of rock become entranced by Richard Archer’s evil hypnotist stare? No, the answer’s down there in the heaving mosh-bounce: Staines skinheads elbow-to-eye-socket with impossibly-haired Trash kids, teen posters and the diska couples here for the bits that sound like Stardust. No art rock inclusiveness, no my-drug’s-more-fashionable-than-your-drug sneering; Hard-Fi’s stunning celebrations of suburban everylife have made them The People’s Band.
And they’ve sure learned how to play to the masses. There’s a dub version of ‘Seven Nation Army’ more inspired than anything British Sea Power could do with the peerless canon of The Wurzels. There’s solo acoustic numbers (‘Move On Now’), torch epics designed to raise the sturdiest of arena roofs (‘Feltham Is Singing Out’, the broken-hearted bravado of ‘Better Do Better’) and there’s gang-chanting, generation-epitomising bawlalongs to ‘Tied Up Too Tight’ and ‘Living For The Weekend’ that make the Arctic Monkeys gig here sound like a sponsored silence by mute mime artists. And, of course, the Central Line is put out of service for a week by ‘Hard To Beat’. Possibly.
Green enough to still get tangled in their mic leads, glorious enough to be headlining Glastonbury before you can say, “Step back inside the shop please, sir,” tonight Hard-Fi put in the passenger window of pop’s mighty Cortina, hotwire the zeitgeist and squall off in the direction of the nearest stadium. Stars then, and no longer just in grainy monochrome.