Hard-Fi kicked off their career with the release of Stars of CCTV in 2005 and after getting into a pickle with the charts, the album finally reached top spot.
The debut single, Cash Machine, was released by the indie rock band in January however the inclusion of a free sticker meant that it was ineligible for the singles chart and so it was re-released in December that year where it reached #14. The song is a confident start for the band with some interesting sounds that pin point what their fans are to expect for the rest of the release, and indeed, their following two too.
What makes Cash Machine so strong are both the prominent lyrics which are relatable and the great music layered underneath. While there are usual guitars, drums and bass-lines that you could expect in any mainstream rock band, Hard-Fi seem to have captured their own sound instantly with a distinct twist to how they perform on the album. Middle Eastern Holiday has slightly more distorted guitars and predominantly driven by a faster drum beat and a running bass. The song feels busy, but thats understandable when you realise its written about the culture of young adults going to war. The band’s anti-war views are in place as they question the political system within the song but despite its meaning, the song feels somewhat overcrowded. It does however lead in nicely to Tied Up Too Tight.
The second single from the album reflected on the success of Cash Machine and reached only one place below, while also being labelled the ‘single of the week’ by NME, Time Out and Lane Lowe on BBC Radio One. Similarly to Middle Eastern Holiday, the song has a deep meaning in needing to get out of your hometown to head to London ‘where the lights are brighter’ and ‘the girls are prettier’, says Richard Archer, the bands frontman.
“Where I come from is pretty grey, boring and depressing if you’re not into the usual run-of-the-mill sorts of things. It could be about any satellite town and how you don’t really feel as if you fit in there. So it’s about getting out and driving to London, seeing the bright lights and the people dressing cooler and being cooler. It’s basically a going-out song.”
The theme is echoed a little throughout the album, but first is Gotta Reason – a repetitive and desperate song that doesn’t seem to have much direction. There’s a repeating riff bounced between the bass and guitars and the vocal melodies aren’t anything exciting. You can call it a ‘filler song’ but that’s as far as it goes. Skipping it takes you straight through to what is one of my favourites on the album, Hard To Beat.
The third single is one of the strongest songs on offer and its proven by being the bands first top 10 song, reaching #9. It was also reported to be the bands favourite song to perform live and its not hard to imagine why. It’s a fun song to listen to and has a real energetic rhythm to it too. It’s exactly the same in Unnecessary Trouble too which opens with harmonies and music you could easily get excited by. Despite its slow starting, it does more than build up to the end and leaves you asking for more everything.
Taking a break on the album is Move On Now, a softer ballad that expresses the usual relationship breakup lyrics. A light and simple piano melody and a softer voice make it a nice break to the other songs on offer and discretely, the song introduces other instruments to make it feel more fuller.
Like other Hard-Fi songs, another slow starter will begin after the ballad closes to an end in the sense of Better Do Better. It’s in your face from the start but only in the chorus are you hit with the impact and its an impact well worth it. Casual use of trumpets and like brass instruments add more texture to the piece hiding the post-breakup lyrics. When the song was released as the fourth single, the cover art was an image taken of an old Nokia mobile with the option to erase a contact – portraying the breakup again in a different perspective that the song picks up on sometimes.
Feltham Is Singing Out follows and takes a similar sound as to Middle Eastern Holiday in the sense that it feels busy and perhaps rushed. If, however, this is the worst the bands sound is going to get, it’s not a terrible bad and given time could be a grower. Just, not right now.
Then you know where you are.
I say that like you got lost somewhere, and to some extent you have been in Feltham Is Singing Out, however leading in afterwards is the synth that turns the album around.
You will have heard it somewhere before as its been on far too many television programmes and plastered pretty much everywhere. Living For The Weekend is seen by many as the anthem song for Hard-Fi, and as it says in the title, is all about getting through a week of work for the weekend. While it only reached #15 in the charts, it is possibly the best written and best performed song by Hard-Fi and the riff is an instant hook.
Concluding the album is the titling song, Stars of CCTV. After the epic soundtrack that Living For The Weekend is, this feels a little bit of a let down – but compared to the earlier songs, it fits the bill great. I really think that Living For The Weekend should be the concluding song on this album as it has such a powerful ending that Stars of CCTV lacks. On a whole, this is a strong debut album that should be included in anyones collection of iconic albums.