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Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV


Review: Jack Foley

AT LAST! Staines has something to shout about other than Ali G!

I proclaim this largely because I was born in neighbouring Ashford and used to live in Staines, so always found the Ali G references a little tiring.

Hard-Fi hail from the same neighbourhood but are an altogether different proposition.

A determined, talented bunch of musicians, they've patiently been waiting to make a name for themselves ever since putting out a demo version of Stars of CCTV in 2004 in the hope of getting noticed.

A few well-chosen singles later and Stars of CCTV re-emerges as a definite statement of intent from another of Britain's emerging bands of the moment.

It is a vibrant, occasionally gritty product of its own environment that takes a no-nonsense look at everything from the Staines night-life and its meat-market club, to the loss of friends, both in Iraq and in the more local Feltham Young Offenders' Institute.

And it says much for the quality that the limited edition early version of Stars of CCTV is now reaching huge prices on Ebay, while also kicking off a bidding war between several of the major record companies.

It's no less than Hard-Fi deserve. Highlights of the album include the most recent single, Hard To Beat, an infectious blast of soul/funk that marks the sound of the band at their most chart-friendly, and the slower, more personal Move On Now, a track that effectively demonstrates the diversity of the band.

The latter is a piano-led ballad that finds Richard Archer adopting a falsetto approach that is almost certain to draw favourable comparisons with the accomplished style of early Coldplay.

The lively Living For The Weekend, with its clap-happy beats, is designed as a playful lament on the lacklustre state of the Staines clubbing scene, while another former single, Cash Machine, is an equally cheeky rant against banks following an encounter which sees Archer's debit card being swallowed.

More hard-hitting material comes in the form of Middle Eastern Holiday, which finds the band commenting on the cost of the war on Iraq (as highlighted by the life of a friend), and Feltham Is Singing Out, which focuses on life at Feltham Young Offenders' Institute.

The excellent Better Do Better is a similarly hard-hitting affair, taking the form of an angry attack on an ex-girlfriend seeking another chance - yet it's delivered in such a catchy style that the track never feels hard-going.

Indeed, it says much for the overall quality of Stars of CCTV (including the title track itself) that it remains so enjoyable despite dealing with the harsher realities of the environment that inspired it.

And it's credit to Hard-Fi and the way in which they view their roots that they chose to return to their recording studio in Staines (Cherry Lips, a former 24-hour cab office) to re-record the album.

They're honest, they have integrity and they're not prepared to turn their back on the things which set them on the road to fame.

Stars of CCTV deserves to make Hard-Fi the focus of some very widespread attention - it is an excellent debut album.

Read the IndieLondon interview

Track listing:
1. Cash Machine
2. Middle Eastern Holiday
3. Tied Up Too Tight
4. Gotta Reason
5. Hard To Beat
6. Unnecessary Trouble
7. Move On Now
8. Better Do Better
9. Feltham Is Singing Out
10. Living For The Weekend
11. Stars OF CCTV

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