Naturally, NME called Hard-Fi's debut album, Stars of CCTV, "the album of the year" upon its U.K. release in 2005. A year later, the Staines, England, foursome had a Mercury Music Prize nomination under its belt as well as two Brit Awards nods and a U.K. number one album. Those following the buzz on the other side of the Atlantic finally got their wish with the domestic release of Stars of CCTV in mid-March. With the popularity of Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian, and the Kaiser Chiefs simmering down around this time, Hard-Fi stepped into the American pop conscience when they were supposed to. While their spark and spunk are near matches of those aforementioned acts, Hard-Fi delivers more of an angst kind of performance. Frontman Richard Archer is fueled by Tony Blair's England. After all, these are four friends from a southwest London town. They sound like a garage band while delving into the monotony of everyday suburban life, referring to their small town upbringing. Thus a raw kind of work ethic gradually emerges on Stars of CCTV. Their formula of snappy choruses and tight guitar hooks, particularly on "Middle Eastern Holiday" and "Gotta Reason," captures Hard-Fi's youthful presentation. Archer's boyish vocals switch off between gritty and playful. If "Living for the Weekend" does not convince you of Hard-Fi's anxious effort in getting you to ease up on the ho-hum of working for a living, the fresh disco beats of "Hard to Beat" surely will. Hard-Fi's desire to create something solid enjoyable in the midst of everyday monotony is what makes Stars of CCTV an enjoyable first effort. Whether they are singing about having little money, unexpected pregnancy ("Cash Machine"), or a war-torn world ("Feltham's Singing Out"), Hard-Fi looks for something positive. Stars of CCTV offers a reason to look for something positive, too.
AllMusic Review by MacKenzie Wilson