Stars of CCTV is an appropriate title for the debut album of an act who you will certainly want to watch out for this year. Hard-Fi, who are perhaps the best thing to ever have come out of Staines, are an exciting young band who should be on any serious music fan’s radar.
Mixing retro influences such as The Specials and The Clash with contemporary lyrics a la The Streets, Hard-Fi’s sound blends musical quality with attitude, which is on full display throughout their breakthrough album. The band have also had a productive output this year – three singles have rolled out one after the other – ensuring a momentum that will give them the attention they deserve.
The album kicks off with debut single Cash Machine, a ska-driven ditty about lack of money, unfulfilled ambitions and running out on your pregnant girlfriend. It’s a brutal message but it sums up a reality for many of Britain’s young males and for that reason Hard-Fi speak to their audience with a lot more authenticity than the Coldplays, Keanes and even Pete Dohertys of the world.
The everyday hardships of ordinary life is a theme that runs throughout Stars of CCTV. Living for the Weekend, one of the slightly weaker tracks musically, is an ideology we can all relate to: “Got some money I just got paid, got some money and I can’t wait, at six o’clock I’m out of here”. Hardly profound but astoundingly relevant to a great many of us. Feltham Is Singing Out tackles a darker but all too real issue for many groups of male friends. It tells the story of a mate who takes the weekend benders a bit too far and serves as a warning to the fate that befalls him, referring of course to the male young offenders institute just outside London.
Hard-fi’s other two singles, Tied Up Too Tight and Hard to Beat, sound as good on the album as they do on the radio, with the latter definitely shining out as the poppiest song on the album. It has the potential to be a major summer anthem, with its catchy chorus and upbeat rhythm.
Despite Stars of CCTV’s fast-paced, high-energy feel, Hard-Fi prove that they can slow it down too on the sublime Move on Now. This is music at it’s most pure and simple with nothing more than a piano and a haunting vocal. It’s a more sensitive, emotive side of Hard-Fi that will be interesting to see more of.
All in all this is an excellent album, let alone debut. It possesses that raw energy that was present in two other exciting debuts, Is This It? by The Strokes and Definitely Maybe by Oasis. Like the latter, the material that drives the energy is derivative from genuine experiences of hard luck and struggle. Let’s hope that as they find success Hard-Fi don’t, like Oasis, lose their edge as it’s hard to imagine them writing lyrics like, “I scratch a living, it ain’t easy, you know it’s a drag… I wonder if’ll ever get to where I want to be”, for much longer.