Hard-Fi - Stars Of CCTV

Bill Cummings 04/07/2005

Rating: 2/5

Originally recorded for the princely sum of 300 quid in 2004, Hard-Fi pressed up 500 copies of their debut mini-album Stars Of CCTV. Released on Necessary records, it sold out within weeks. Following that, they were picked up by Atlantic Records and began recording their major label debut, a no-holds-barred version of Stars Of CCTV.

This album is apparently inspired by Staines-based singer Richard Archer's feeling of "entrapment in a satellite ghost town bereft of soul style or sobriety." Musically they claim to channel the "broken spirit of 80's Coventry into the likes of Ghost Town and Nite Club". According to their press release, Archer's work throws up "dark , dubby shapes and dissatisfied lyrics, gloriously rife with modern day glitz, small town glamour and concrete hedonism"

Opener "Cash Machine" was Hard Fi's first ever single; it's all dubby beats, ska-tinged guitars and lyrics upon the perils of having "negative bling". Musically it bounces along enjoyably enough with a Clash-esque style and a nice floating harmonica line but lyrically its quite bland, Archer exclaiming at one point "I've got a hole in my pocket" That's the problem with the songs here: they are a construct of what we think chav culture is like, late night pub brawls , being skint, etc. But this album really is not as gritty lyrically as it should be and thus gives the impression of being a bit of light cultural tourism for the listener.

Its not all bad though. "Tied up too Tight" has a nagging rhythm to it, augmented by squelchy samples and modish guitars and a frenetic melody. In fact the chorus- although clich├ęd- is quite insurgent and rather catchy: "And all the boys and girls say/ Straight out of Westway/Cant you feel the rush baby /Tied up too tight." Elsewhere "Hard To Beat" bounces along nicely enough, even if it does sound a bit like Toploader. The main chorus lines are quite cheesy too, full of whoops and yelps. While tracks like "Middle Eastern Holiday", "Feltham is Singing Out" and "Gotta Reason" just pass me by as sub-standard. "Unnecessary trouble" is a decent dubby pop track, whilst the balladry of "Move on Now" is rather nothingy, sounding worrying like latter Sting in certain passages.

Hard Fi aim to an area that is currently inhabited by The Ordinary Boys: the sound of dissatisfied tales of the underclass, set to music that harks back to the sounds of the Clash and The Specials, melded with a slightly more modern dub sound. In fairness to Hard Fi they sound infinitely more modern and pop than The Ordinary Boys, but the problem still remains: they just don't sound exciting enough. Too often tracks pass the listener by and, whilst their singles have a spark of something, the NME recently claimed they were better than the Clash: but to mention the two bands in the same breath would be unfair. Hard-Fi its fair to say periodically have a way with a tune and they will no doubt be big in a world where Chav Culture is celebrated, but too often, in their own words, they are musically tied up too tight.