CD Review of Stars of CCTV by Hard-Fi

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Buy your copy from Hard-Fi:
Stars of CCTV
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Necessary/Atlantic
Released: 2006
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ALSO! Check out our interview with Hard-Fi frontman Richard Archer.

Time to state the obvious for just a second: why don’t rock bands have fun anymore? Seriously, look at the bands tearing up – then, usually, right back down – the charts. Fall Out Boy? Sure, they’re jumping up and down throughout their video, but that racket they play ain’t what you call fun. In fact, let’s call a spade a spade: they suck. Linkin Park? Self-absorbed whining in E minor. Staind? A musical revue of 12-step rehabilitation. The Strokes? Way too cool for school. Coldplay? We don’t have enough time to discuss how not fun Coldplay is. The Darkness tried to bring a little levity to the scene, and they were tagged as “gimmicky.” Jesus, is it so wrong for a rock band to make an album that makes you want to shake ya ass?

While the true answer to that question comes in April, when the Eagles of Death Metal drop their debut, we have an alternative in the meantime; an unassuming quartet from Staines, England – you read that right, they grew up in a place called Staines – has just dropped the catchiest, most danceable rock record you’re going to hear from across the pond this year. Forget the Arctic Monkeys: the only British band that matters right now is Hard-Fi. Their debut, Stars of CCTV, out-Oasis’ Oasis, out-Punks Daft Punk, and even takes the time to pay loving tribute to the Clash and the Specials. They may not have had a pot to piss in when they made the record, but this is the sound of a small band thinking impossibly big, and it’s a joy to behold.

“Cash Machine,” the band’s first single and U2-riffing video, leads things off with a bang, as a slow, dubby bass line gives way to a Clash-fueled ode to being dead broke (the narrator even leaves his pregnant girlfriend because “I can’t afford to be a daddy”). Even singer Richard Archer’s voice sounds broke, his stocky baritone steady but weathered. “Tied Up Too Tight” is Great Escape-era Blur, a bank of synths and strings teamed up with a Velco-coated “Na na na na na” chorus and a Graham Coxon-esque solo from Ross Phillips.

And then there’s “Hard to Beat,” which is for all intents and purposes a rock remake of Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better with You,” the Daft Punk spinoff megasmash. Archer’s not much of a lyricist, but his melodies are so sharp that he can sing “You know I love ya / Just wanna touch ya / Stand up, knock me right off my feet / Hard to beat,” in such a way that not only will you not laugh, you’ll sing right along with him. Ah, lyrics are overrated anyway. What point is there in writing a great line if it’s no fun to sing? Indeed, Archer also employs a “Whoa whoa whoaaaa” refrain in “Unnecessary Trouble” and a ‘Baby baby’ theme to piano ballad “Move On Now.” It’s the economics of pop: the best songs are always the simplest.

This is your new favorite band, right here. They’re catchy, they’re versatile, and unlike a lot of the other, deathly serious bands from across the pond (Editors, Bloc Party), they’re fun. Between Stars of CCTV and the new Delays album – go get their single “Valentine” right now – UK rock just might be looking at sunny skies again. Does anyone remember laughter?

~David Medsker