Hard-Fi – Stars of CCTV

By on Tuesday, 9th May 2006 at 4:19 pm
 

Following in the footsteps of other (British) critics’ darlings “The Streets”, Hard-Fi have produced a debut album which recounts British street life with perfect and sometimes brutal honesty. It’s infused from beginning to end with the bravado of British chav attitude (for more information see this Wikipedia entry) – ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’ – but whilst they swagger, their music is high quality stuff. Apparently it was mixed in a variety of unusual acoustic environments – in bedrooms, in pubs, and in their producer’s BMW – thus some interesting sounds on the album.

Over the past year they’ve been riding the success in Britain since the debut of their album, having been nominated for last year’s Mercury Prize (up against Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs, Coldplay and the Go Team amongst others) and about to play to 25,000 people over five nights at Brixton Academy next week. Quite amazing for the foursome from the cultural wasteland that is Staines, south west London.

Opener “Cash Machine” is a typical upbeat tale of how hard it is to make ends meet – “I scratch a living, it ain’t easy” and how realities collide: “What am I gonna do / My girlfriend’s test turned blue / We tried to play it safe / That night we could not wait” the lively guitars and drums create, helping them to create some notable anthems.

Along with the usual themes of music today of love, lust, breaking up and being broke, Hard-Fi tackle some more interesting and different themes: track two, “Middle Eastern Holiday” is written from the perspective of a 21 year old serving in the Gulf. “He’s got a gun, but it’s meant for me” Rich Archer proclaims, unsure of its significance it seems, but not taking himself too seriously, like the rest of the album.

“Tied up too tight” sounds like it has been recorded in a big empty warehouse with its acoustics, and has a great thumping, car-chase chorus that would be great in a British gangster film, a la “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”

“Move on Now” is the necessary slow track of the album, combining emotion and vibrant imagery (Looking out my bedroom window / See the planes take off from Heathrow) with great instrumentation of the trumpet and piano, combining to make a great, stirring mid-album slow down track.

Stand out of the album “Living for the Weekend” comes as the pen-ultimate track of the album, a rousing, sing-along anthem for people to enjoy on summer evenings. A massive radio hit in the UK, it was the song that first got my attention of the band, and one that launched them from also-rans to proper contenders in this new wave of Brit-pop that has emerged with The Libertines, Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand, and now being followed up with Kaiser Chiefs and Hard-Fi.

Album closer “Stars of CCTV” sees a very different sound, with an exotic sounding acoustic guitar being used along with a piano to make a minor anthem about how “I’m gonna get my face on the 6 ‘o’ clock news / We’re the stars of CCTV / Making movies out on the street”. Surprisingly endearing, considering the realities of what they actually mean by it.

Overall though, a brilliant debut effort from Hard-Fi: some critics are already touting them as one of the key bands of this Brit-pop revival, and their follow up could cement this role.

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