Monday, December 26, 2005

Album Review: Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV (4/5)

The Killers and Franz Ferdinand, meet your new opponent. Hard-Fi, formed in 2002 by lead singer/songwriter Richard Archer in Staines, England, are the latest entry in the indie/retro/fun rock movement, and a welcome one for sure. Stars of CCTV is an accomplished debut that manages to be both darker and less clever than the aforementioned bands, while still maintaining a sense of fun and musical urgency.

The opening track, "Cash Machine" struts along with fuzzy electric guitars, feedback-laden vocals, and just enough retro-electro and keyboard to remind us that '80s influences are still strong in rock. The rhythm and electric guitars get turned up a notch for "Middle Eastern Holiday," and then the electro for "Tied Up Too Tight." "Gotta Reason" keeps up the pace too, but things get really interesting with "Hard to Beat," which is this album's equivalent to "Somebody Told Me." The track swirls with electronics, electric guitars, and noise, and breaks out staccato keyboard for the chorus that sounds like it came from Madonna's "Into The Groove."

A reprieve is offered by "Move On Now," a Coldplay-ish piano ballad that Archer delivers with an emotional vocal. With its slight use of electronics, it's almost downbeat. "Better Do Better" draws on big band, resulting of course in a big sound when combined with keyboards and guitars. "Living For The Weekend" is another dark, loud, electric number. Overall, somewhat derivative, but a solid and enjoyable debut.

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