“I don’t see the point in being another fuckin’ indie band…You’ve got to think big.”
– Richard Archer, Hard-Fi
If the dominating characteristic in all of Britpop is cockiness, then Hard-Fi should be well on their way. Having already won album of the year honors from NME in 2005, Hard-Fi have the critical acclaim to backup their frontman’s lofty ambition. With their combination of ’90s Britpop hooks and ’00s post-post-punk angularity, success only seems to be a given at this point.
Unlike many of their peers (Futureheads, Bloc Party), Hard-Fi has a sort of radio-ready sheen that lends them easy comparisons to the likes of The Killers and The Bravery, two big selling bands that Archer would still consider “indie.” Big keyboards, big guitars, big choruses-you get the idea. Subtlety isn’t one of Hard-Fi’s strong points, and for that reason, they’ve already earned quite a bit of attention stateside, as well as in their native UK. Stars of CCTV, the band’s debut, is crafted precisely for dancing and drinking, maybe even a little rollerskating, as in their disco-fied hit “Hard to Beat,” which, for all its simplicity, is one of the best songs on the record.
The album opens with “Cash Machine,” the dub-inflected single that first drew attention to the band last year. And while it’s catchy enough, it’s nowhere near the hit that “Hard to Beat” is. “Middle Eastern Holiday,” with plenty of cowbell and digital delay, offers a more upbeat flavor of British rock, no doubt inspired by ’80s Clash. “Gotta Reason” practically begs for its own dance routine, its punchy rhythms jerking back and forth as synthesizers buzz and hands clap. The horns that open “Unnecessary Trouble” give promise to a soulful form of the band’s high-energy rock, and during the chorus, mostly deliver, though not quite to the Blues Brothers level I had hoped.
The one area where Hard-Fi may be able to play their Top of the Pops card is with the ballad “Move On Now,” as its the tearjerker that might have the ladies swooning. But even if they choose not to go the ballad as single route, there’s plenty of material on here that warrants repeat listens, if not always a Top 40 slot.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.