Naming an album Killer Sounds following a four-year break which has seen most of their indie pop contemporaries fall by the wayside, could be seen as asking for trouble, but luckily, Hard-Fi‘s third effort more than lives up to its rather ambitious title. The self-proclaimed "Stars of CCTV" may have been largely forgotten since 2007's under-performing Once Upon a Time in the West, but co-produced by Richard Archer with the likes of Stuart Price (the Killers) Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen), and Alan Moulder (Foo Fighters), its follow-up is a much more adventurous affair which should reignite their slightly faltering career. Their trademark rabble-rousing chants, spiky guitar hooks, and general swagger are still very much in evidence, but this time round, their '80s influences stray far beyond the post-punk of the Clash and the socially conscious ska of the Specials which defined their previous two chart-topping releases. The delayed guitar effects, multiple choruses, and new wave rhythms of "Stop" sound like Xenomania have been let loose on a lost Simple Minds classic; the pulsing electro of "Fire in the House" recalls New Order at their most Balearic; while there are flashes of Talking Heads on the rumbling basslines of "Bring It On," Duran Duran on the "Girls on Film"-esque "Stay Alive," and even Prince on the dirty falsetto funk of "Sweat." But Killer Sounds is just as convincing when it veers away from the era of their Staines youth, as evident on lead single "Good for Nothing," which borrows the spacious clattering beats of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" in a boisterous slice of anthemic Brit-pop; the politically conscious "Give It Up," which combines Chicane-eque trance synths with a cathartic indie disco chorus, and the Bollywood-tinged baggy pop of "Feels Good." The Steve Harley-ish '70s barroom rock of the closing title track feels out of sync with the album's more dance-focused nature, as does the shouty punk of "Excitement," which sounds more like a B-side from their earlier output, but they're the only missteps on a constantly and unexpectedly thrilling comeback from a resurgent band who have upped their game when it matters the most.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien