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4.1 out of 5 stars114
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 1 August 2007
This is an incredibly accomplished debut album - a blistering set of songs with not one dud track amongst them. Weaving together a diverse range of influences, Hard-Fi spin tales of everyday life and love, but they somehow manage to turn this ordinary premise into a collection of tracks unlike anything you've heard before. Their influences encompass everything from traditional Britpop-indie to ska, dub, reggae, pop and dance, informing the nous and flexibility that made 'Hard to Beat', arguably the standout track, a club anthem as well as a festival favourite.

Every track crackles with energy - this is the raw sound of disenchanted youth on the edge of greatness, determined to break out of a grey backwater and head for the bright lights of the city. Anyone who's ever been stuck in a dead-end job will identify with frontman and songwriter Richard Archer's vignettes of everyday working-class life; there's the anguish of being broke on 'Cash Machine', the elation of a new crush on 'Hard to Beat', the bitterness of the subsequent break-up on 'Better Do Better', joy at the prospect of two days and nights of freedom on 'Living for the Weekend'. 'Middle Eastern Holiday' is as fierce and vitriolic an anti-war song as you'll hear anywhere, but like the rest of the tracks, it's written from a heart-wrenchingly personal point of view. Along with 'Feltham is Singing Out', it illustrates Hard-Fi's ability to tackle social issues with breathtaking effectiveness, while skilfully avoiding making their songs into political polemics. The title track is a fitting close to the album - a sublime paean to a world in which every move we make is caught on camera, it all hinges on Archer's sneering refrain of 'can't you see the camera loves me', his voice dripping with sarcasm. It's a song which captures the spirit of the album perfectly.

I can't recommend this stunning record highly enough; it's one of the most affecting, evocative and true-to-life albums I've ever heard. It deserves to be regarded as a true British classic - it's certainly on a par with (if not, dare I say it, better than) Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys' debuts. If this breathtaking album isn't already a part of your collection, it most definitely should be.
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on 26 December 2005
I love this album! Like all the best bands, they've taken a load of diverse influences, (in their case punk, indie, ska, hip hop, disco & more,) mixed them all together and come up with something really original and cool! There's real depth here too, from the full-on, up tempo floor fillers like 'Hard To Beat' to my favourite track, the achingly beautiful 'Move On Now', a gorgeous ballad about the end of a relationship set in the wider context of having outgrown a dead-end town. The simple piano backing showcases Richard Archer's vocals and shows just what a good singer he is.
My one gripe is that the lyrics are a bit too fixated on 'isn't it terrible living in Blair's facist police state?' but hey, they're angry young men, I expect they'll mellow (slightly) with age!
Anyway, all in all a great debut album - buy it, you won't be disappointed!
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When I bought this album I had only actually heard 'Hard To Beat', which I thought was an OK song. The album reviews intrigued me, particularly with the Ska and Clash references. Now this is the only current album on my car stereo - it has a great beat and feel that makes it perfect for August summer evenings with the window down. This is a brillant debut and the hybrid Clash / Specials remark is spot on ( with a bit of The Jam thrown in, i.e. Living For The Weekend.)
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on 20 July 2005
If anyone buys this purely on the basis of the dancefloor anthem "Hard to Beat" and expects a collection of similar tracks (only one comes close - "Living for the Weekend") the chances are they are going to be disappointed. The track is an absolute gem in it's own right but is in no way solely representative of what is a very tight and exciting debut album.
The CD as a whole isn't totally cohesive, the title track is weak and I'm not convinced over the piano ballad "Move on Now". Probably worth 4.5 stars in my opinion, down to those two "weaker" tracks.
Those two aside though, the rest is absolutely storming. The obvious parallels with the Clash/Specials are spot on, but do you remember either of these bands at their political/vitriolic best? Musically Hard-fi are up there with them. The driving rhythms, dub bass, singalong choruses, even a drop of mellatron ffs!! The vocals are straight from the Strummer/Jones school of London sloganeering. The messages are much more social commentary for the noughties rather than the heavy political sloganeering of the Thatcher era(the Streets comparisons, lyrically, are fair).They are far from a one trick pony though, and although there are certain sounds and themes running through the bulk of the tracks, there is enough diversity to hold your attention.
The singles are initially the tracks that really jump out at you, but after a few plays there are others that are just as strong - Middle Eastern Holiday, Better do Better, Feltham is singing out, Living for the weekend etc.
"Q" dubbed them the next major British band. Time will tell, but I think they'll be there or thereabouts.
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on 19 July 2005
Having heard 'Cash Machine' on Zane Lowe in the Summer of 2004, I could tell Hard-Fi was destined for great things. Having seen them perform at King's College last month, I can confirm I was totally correct - they blew me away...and were genuinely lovely guys to boot.
'Stars of CCTV' was definitely worth the wait. Much like the band Dum Dums from a good few years back, Hard-Fi sing about the few perks and many perils of growing up in a crap town - however this offering isn't only about the standard money/girl problems.
Here's my brief guide to the tracks:
1. Cash Machine - Fantastic moody bassline to a strong song, with inspired lyrics about an unwanted pregnancy whilst in financial turmoil. Ought to be re-released as well as being given to a DJ (potential for an awesome remix).
2. Middle Eastern Holiday - A bit strange on the first listen, but really grows on you. Now one of my favourites. Moves at pace, again with strong lyrics from frontman Richard Archer; describing some peers taking up arms for the Iraq war whilst others continue their mundane routine of life in the suburbs.
3. Tied Up Too Tight - Catchy hook with singalong 'La la la la la laaaa' bits. Wouldn't necessarily have been a single choice for me as I believe there are lyrically stronger songs on here - but musically this is faily upbeat with a random reference to footwear.
4. Gotta Reason - Sounds like the soundtrack to a gang of chavs off to bash up a rival gang of chavs who've 'been on their turf'. They'd be on a mission, and so is this song. Grab your baseball bat and go along for the ride.
5. Hard To Beat - Alternative anthem of the Summer. An upbeat tale of lust and urban romance amongst the concrete and above the whiff of Burberry aftershave. Impossible not to smile and dance around your handbag to.
6. Unnecessary Trouble - Not one of my favourites, doesn't seem to go very far. Slightly ploddy.
7. Move On Now - Really shows Richard Archer's talent as a new Chris Martin. Delicately sung with believable feeling. The ballad describes how hard it is to end a relationship when you still deeply care for the other person, even if ending it is probably better for the both of you in the long-run.
8. Better Do Better - Sung with swagger, you can almost visualise Archer sneering into the microphone as he tells a cheating ex-girlfriend to sling her hook.
9. Feltham Is Singing Out - Another of the weaker tracks, if only because it doesn't show the listener anything new.
10. Living For The Weekend - Should be another single. Stuck in a dead-end job, your only aim is to drink your wages come Friday night. This song just begs you to dance to it, offering a Smirnoff Ice into the bargain.
11. Stars OF CCTV - At first, you may think it was an odd choice to end the album on a comparatively 'downbeat' note, however this again shows that the band can diversify with great success. This ode to a supposedly inevitable descent into petty crime has lush guitars and even better voices.
Overall, I love this album - it didn't get a 5 just because that would leave Hard-Fi nowhere to go. With only 2 possible fillers (and even they are likeable), and fresh lyrics and music, it fully deserves its Mercury nomination.
Buy this album - if just to say you were there at the beginning - and watch them soar.
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on 20 May 2006
This album is quite simply superb and these guys deserve to be huge. Drawing upon a wide range of influences Hard Fi have put together a debut as good as any you'll ever hear and easily the best album of 2005. Forget the Kaiser Chiefs, Keane and Franz Ferdinand, Hard Fi are better than them all. When can we expect the sequel?
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on 25 July 2005
At last, an album that captures the true spirit of british youth culture. At times the lyrics, when taken out of context may appear depressing, but some how Hard-Fi manage to keep you smiling right through to the end.
I first heard of Hard-Fi about 6 months ago just before they released Tied Up Too Tight, and have been waiting for this moment ever since. It really is hard to pick the stand out tracks, since to me they all work at different times of your life. Whether your skint (cash machine), going out with your mates (living for the weekend), falling in love (hard to beat), or out of love (move on now/better do better), this album really does capture your mood perfectly.
Lyrics as clever as Mike Skinner's (the streets) and musical arrangments that really emphasise the meaning. This album should really get the full five star treatment, but then where would they go neaxt. And I have to belive that this is just a taste and by no means their peak.
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on 14 November 2012
If you think of great debut albums then 'Stars Of CCTV' by energetic rockers Hard-Fi comes to mind straight away. Thrown in with other Indie bands like Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand, Hard-Fi showed they were one step ahead with this classic which is so good they haven't bettered it. They mix together Rock, dance-punk and reggae with hard hitting social commenting lyrics brilliantly.

The range of songs tied together by its underlying themes give the album its great strength. The two biggest hits, and among my favorite songs, 'Hard To Beat' and 'Living For The Weekend' are among the catchiest songs of the last few decades. 'Hard To Beat' is the albums centre piece being so lively that its impossible not to move when its on, the rhythm section is tight, the vocals brilliant and is a great song. 'Living For The Weekend' has an incredible hook which gets stuck in your head, being easy to rock out to or dance to so you get the best of both worlds. Versatility is the albums strong point, as nearly every song has both a rock and dance feel to it.

There's some great rockers like war song 'Middle Eastern Holiday' and the ultra cool 'Gotta Reason', whilst there's some gentle greats that build to dark chorus' in 'Tied Up Too Tight' and 'Better Do Better'. We also get the brilliant 'Unnecessary Trouble', which sounds like a modern Clash, and the angry 'Feltham Is Singing Out'. 'Move On Now' stands out for being so different as its such a tender song with just a piano and Richard Archer's melancholy vocals, yet its fantastic.

This is a amazingly good debut and its one of the few albums were i could listen to every song. The instrumentation is as good as it gets and the lyrics are hard hitting. This is one you need to own.
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on 14 July 2005
From the opening "Cash Machine" Hard-Fi sing loud their discontents and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Granted their message is one we've heard many a time before, as mentioned, from bands like 'The Specials' but this a modern revitalisation bringing their own unique touch to the ever-changing ska sound. By the time you reach "Tied up Too Tight" their sound has barely even begun to reach full flow yet already you know this is another big hit. Settling into the middle of the album "Gotta Reason" and "Hard to Beat" provide an upbeat contrast and bring their ska roots shining through.
While the album infectiously gets better with every listen there remains huge optimism as there certainly is room for improvement which leaves space for a sensational follow up album. Just as the album seems to lose direction we're quickly pulled in by the ballad like "Move on Now" which, while not having the lyrical power or sweeping beauty of many accomplished writers, has a startling chill out effect to gently bring the mood back down. "Better Do Better" (My Personal favourite) takes advantage of this break and explodes with heartbreak and resentment alternating between angry choruses and embittered verses all the while preparing us for the up surging "Feltham is Singing Out".
There is a sudden return to the upbeat with "Living for the Weekend" with the same in the club feel as "Hard to Beat" and another likely single for the masses. There is then a placid movement out with the slightly humorous "Stars of CCTV". All in all the throbbing bass lines and varying vocals are well balanced and with a welcoming poise between realism and bright and breezy. The debut from Hard-Fi is a must for almost anybody and is set to be the start of a successful future.
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on 7 March 2007
This is a fantastic debut, but with a couple of flaws. The singles off of the album are classic anthems that will be aired on the radio for years to come (Living For The Weekend" and "Cash Machine" in particular), but the album looses steam in the album tracks somewhere (track 6 in particular). There is a good amount of variety on the album (which is very good for a new band) and so it requires repeated listens...but it's not quite a 5 star achievement. I can't wait for their next release (a long time in the making it would appear) because i want to see whether this band can produce better (just think how good it could be!)I think Richard Archer (singer/songwriter) is a Joe Sturmmer in the making, and could easily be a house hold name by the end of the decade if the band capitilises on their succes.
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