Stars of CCTV

Studio Album by released in 2005
Stars of CCTV's tracklist:
Cash Machine
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Middle Eastern Holiday
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Tied Up Too Tight
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Gotta Reason
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Hard to Beat
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Unnecessary Trouble
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Move on Now
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Better Do Better
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Feltham Is Singing Out
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Living for the Weekend
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Stars of CCTV
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Stars of CCTV review

Another great hope for the guitar-based alternative pop/rock circuit, Hard-Fi have had a lot of expectation heaped upon them by music and mainstream press alike in recent weeks. Their debut album Stars Of CCTV is chock full of quality, brimming with chunky, angst-ridden pop/rock classics in the making. Britain has produced great bands that can really pinpoint what's happening in the country at that particular time and just as Terry Hall did with Ghost Town, Mike Skinner did last year, Pulp did in the early nineties, The Jam and The Clash did in the late 70's, Hard-Fi have documented on record what its like growing up as a young man in 2005. They've done it with a great deal of style and confidence though as well. Road-tested in a car speeding the mean streets of Hard-Fi's hometown Staines, Stars Of CCTV consciously sets out to update the sense of frustrated tension and suburban dread that powered second-wave ska acts like The Specials and The Beat back at the close of the '70s.

Cash Machine sees a swallowed debit card as the jump-off for vocalist Richard Archer to spin a tale of crushing poverty and unwanted pregnancy, spurred along by thrumming dub bass and the sad wheeze of a vibraphone. They do upbeat as well, as club anthem Hard To Beat – a heart-fluttering composite of Northern Soul elation and fist-pumping Rockers reggae – joyfully confirms. But it's the emotional struggle, the ups and downs of life, that keeps Stars Of CCTV engaging throughout: see penultimate track Living For The Weekend, a hedonistic blast filled with not a little of the passion that fuelled Oasis' Definitely Maybe, which succeeds chiefly because it's all too aware of the bad times as well as the good. Tied Up Too Tight is either an ode to, or an attack on, frontman Richard Archer's hometown of Staines. Either way, it's an infectious, hook-laden tune, on its way to becoming a future indie disco classic. At the other end of the spectrum is Middle Eastern Holiday, which switches the location to war-torn Iraq, with a suitably dark and dense musical atmosphere providing a background for the vocals. Hard-Fi sometimes hint at what The Streets might have been had Mike Skinner decided to do his thing with a rockier attitude, but they can also do "thoughtful", as on the bittersweet Move On Now.

Hard-Fi are part of the growing cadre of new British guitar bands, but, unlike their compatriots such as Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs or The Departure, rather than taking their cues from new wave, post punk and 1980's indie, they've instead turned to Two-Tone and ska as well as the more moody elements of the Clash and the danceable rhythms of The Happy Mondays for their influences. Far from sounding like Specials copycats, however, what Hard-Fi have produced is unqiue and catchy indie rock about inner city tension, disillusionment and the frustration of being young and stuck in a dead end. You will love this album, because it has all the features of a classic: potently singalong tunes, highly emotional lyrics, spot on low-fi production, and there's a really endearing underdog story behind this band. In other words, Hard-Fi deserve all the success they're having, and even more to come.