Review: Jack Foley
AT LAST! Staines has something to shout about other than Ali
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
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'
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
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