Stars Of CCTV



by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
September 20th, 2005 | 26 replies

Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

�Chav-rock� isn�t a particularly glamorous way in which to describe the music of Hard-Fi, one of the many bands recently blessed with the NME�s patented �kiss of death�, a positive appraisal. While writers at that publication do strictly love everything, they tend to, unfortunately for the chosen act, push some performers more vigorously than others. Hailing from Staines, a notorious working class area near (or technically, in) London, the 5-piece released their self-produced debut to mixed reaction earlier this year.

The band�s location in close proximity to one of the world�s most active music scenes meant they could be influenced by the London scene without necessarily being part of it. The cultural ambiguity had an important influence upon Hard-Fi as they prepared to produce a six-track mini-album to attract label interest. Due to a variety of factors, the mini-album was recorded primarily in a disused mini cab office the band managed to gain access to. Upon their signature to Atlantic Records, they promptly returned to this glam setting to recapture the apparent magic of their early recordings. It is to the band�s credit that, unlike the Mike Skinner�s of this world, their album sounds greater than the studio. The album, to anyone�s ears, could have been recorded in a top of the range studio. Whether those ears would approve of the album as a whole is another matter, however.

On the face, Hard-Fi have a reasonable case for �next Oasis� status. Firstly, they�re the darlings of many sections of the British music press. Secondly, they�ve constructed a thuggish image for themselves, however inaccurate it may be. Thirdly, they both incorporate an element of dance into their fundamentally British sound. Fourthly, they have horrible dress sense. The question to be asked about their debut release, Stars Of CCTV, is whether it�s a Definitely Maybe or whether it�s a definite no-no.

The answer to that question, rather predictably, lies somewhere between the two semi-extremes. Definitely Maybe was, irregardless of personal taste, a landmark as far as British music is concerned. While that album may not have created Britpop, it surely became the sound for which the movement is best remembered. Hard-Fi, try as they might, achieve nothing of the sort. Stars Of CCTV is an innovative album in its own way, but genre-defining it is not. The album owes a lot to what has gone before: Britpop; dance-rock crossover acts (Happy Mondays, Stone Roses) and the burgeoning indie rock scene inhabited by soundalikes Kasabian and those-under-pressure-to-perform, Franz Ferdinand and the Killers.

Opening track Cash Machine is perhaps the strongest track with which the band could have begun the album, and is definitely the most fitting track for the position. A strong, heavy rhythm and a funky bassline play a classic soul trick, concealing a dark, despairing lyric within an almost euphoric musical atmosphere. The chorus is the type festival organisers dream of, utilising to its fullest effect frontman Richard Archer�s monotonous but character-laden voice.

This strong opening fades out only momentarily before the second track explodes to life with another strong bassline and drumbeat. Any critic of modern mainstream rock will be fully aware of how unusual it is to find an album which features bass for two songs straight let alone uses the bass as a central part of the song�s structure. Not surprisngly, Middle Eastern Holiday was a moderately-successful single. On the surface, it�s the kind of song the media has been lapping up since Franz Ferdinand broke into the mainstream, but below lies a strongly written and very well-produced song which most of their contemporaries could only dream of releasing.

Another single, and perhaps the album�s most complete recording, follows in Tied Up Too Tight. Featuring strong group vocals and Archer�s best performance on the album, aswell as some excellent work by guitarist Ross Philips and complemetary piano, the track is only brought down by some truly awful lyrics, which is perhaps not surprising given their stint as Green Day�s warm-up act in the US.

Straight out of West London/Just like a loaded gun.

Dylan needs not feel threatened.

Unfortunately, it�s at the point where the singles dry up that the album starts to fade. Gotta Reason is a decent track, led by a simple, catchy, guitar line but ultimately a drab vocal dissolves any early promise. Hard To Beat was released as a single, and it�s possible to see why, but it bears stark contrast to lasting appeal of the aforementioned tracks. Unnecessary Trouble possesses a strong hook but little else. For once, the band is persuaded to leave space in the mix, and it comes across as awkward.

Better Do Better gives each member room to indulge somewhat, and as such is of some lasting interest. The arrangement is grand, the individual performances are splendid, and the songwriting is again quite strong. Archer even allows himself an extended range of� well, more than one note. Move On Now is the obligatory piano ballad, somewhat reminiscent of Jet�s �Look What You�ve Done�, featuring a curiously endearing off-key vocal and little else as regards the arrangement. The song at 5:07 is, frankly, far too long but nonetheless endurable. The track is at least indicative of something deeper and more ambitious within the band, though it�s been manifested here as something quite a way short of unique.

Feltham Is Singing Out features a �Kashmir�-esque string section but, unfortunately, not a memorable tune to accompany it. Much better is the most recent single, Living For The Weekend, which helps close the album on a more encouraging note. It still fails to live up to the first trio of singles, but it improves on the unimpressive mass which props up the albums interior. Final track, Stars Of CCTV, from which the album�s title is taken, continues the theme of the preceding track in order to finish the album on a buoyant note. The lighthearted strum-along sees singer Archer speak proudly of being �stars of CCTV�, Close Circuit Television, �hidden camera� for the dummies. Lads go out on the weekend, take substances, get caught on camera etc. etc. It�s a fitting finish to album as the band show throughout the album a refreshing willingness not to take themselves too seriously.

Stars Of CCTV won�t change the world, or the indie-rock movement, but it�s 45 minutes of solid rock music which will certainly defy the expectations of the average listener, as it did mine. Thieves, as has been proved countless times down the years, can rock with the best of them. This isn�t Leadbelly, nor is it Jailhouse Rock, but it�s a solid, if ultimately disappointing, venture into the world of greater London�s underclass.


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Comments:Add a Comment 
September 20th 2005


Good review and yes like I've said before on this site Hard fi i dnt think can be classed as 'Chavs'.Good review some good songs on here I especaially like stars of cctv i thought hard to beat was good too you slightly overlooked it here

September 20th 2005


Album Rating: 3.0

Isn't that artwork wrong?

September 20th 2005


I was gonna review this :upset:
oh well, good album

January 25th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

this is a fairly good album, not the best but still quite good - nice review

Two-Headed Boy
April 17th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

Very nice review. I like this album, it's quite enjoyable. It's different. Though I'd struggle to call this Indie.

Two-Headed Boy
April 17th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

*Change the album art to the yellow. It's better.

April 23rd 2006


I can see why people like these guys. the music is deinately catchy with a reggae influence, but the vocalist irritates me, and a lot of the material sounds the same.

April 23rd 2006


I like the phrase "chav rock"

Personally I dislike Hard Fi, nyce review anyways

May 2nd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

They remind me of The Clash, but with more of an electronic sound

The Jungler
May 17th 2006


A chav is much like an american "wigger" right?
Great review, I've liked most of the stuff I've heard off this though the Arctic Monkeys are a tad better.

May 29th 2006


It's a good album. I went to see them live and they're much better live than on the CD. Trust me - they're not chavs. They are really nice guys but kind of give off the chav feel I guess.

July 7th 2006


top album

July 16th 2006


I know where I live "chav" or "chawch"(not sure how that's spelled , but that's definitely the way it's said) refers to a guy who's cocky and focuses on their looks, dressing in a metrosexual sort of way. Is that what this is referring to?

Great review! I agree with the bit on the slight lack of lyrical continuity. If theres one thing I could recommend to these boys it would be to keep up with Na Na Nas and less of the I want to eat you up like food bits...

July 16th 2006


Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Solid album, however the lyrics cross that line from indie band to boy band many times through out. Oh well.

July 16th 2006


Album Rating: 1.5

I am not afraid to give Hard-Fi a well deserved 1 for a rating.

I actually cannot stand this band. They do nothing new for music, and they just have churned out here another 'wanabee great indie' album.

It is just so... clean. Every chord is played the same in choruses; the verses are dainty and keep coming at you (and not in a good way); I am sure also that the vocalist tries to be funny at times with his lyrics, but I just do not seem to get it.

This is summed up in the video of 'Cash Machine' when at the end of the video the singer realises he cannot withdraw any money so says 'Knickers!' Come on! He is impressing no-one! Who laughs at that!?

Seriously, this band imho brings nothing new to music, is way too 'clean', and need a great big kick up the arse if they are going to impress me.

August 2nd 2006


you know what 'barns' i reckon you need a massive kick and/or a male reproductive organ up your arse.
this album is hardly indie because indie is sh1t and this stuff ain't sh1t

August 21st 2006


Album Rating: 1.5

lol, 'boofhead' just my honest opinion, and if you are one of their fans, it kinda reflects their target audience. Nuff said.

August 21st 2006


This album is hideously tripe!

August 22nd 2006


Tripe is "Informal. Something of no value; rubbish." Sounds bout right to me hehe

November 17th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

um...some of the sentences in this review fell as if they were lost in translation or something.

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