Hard-Fi, Stars of CCTV

Up to now Staines has only really been famous for two things, Ali G, who isn't real and the fact that it's a dump, which is extremely real. This uninspiring town on the outskirts of South West London can now rightly crow about having given birth to one of the hottest new properties in British alternative music.

Often when I get a new album I skip straight to the last track to see what it's like, working on the theory that if I can't move on, other than pressing stop, the artist in question might at least have made the effort to give me a reason to keep listening. In the case of Hard-Fi the album close, which is also the title track, is for me one of the many high points and would stand up and be counted if it got the honor of representing them in the singles market. With the right amount of backing and if timed correctly, this could be a massive radio hit. That said they have plenty of those to choose from, as 'Stars of CCTV' is a very accessible record.

Some of this has already been out in the form of a mini album in late 2004 and there are tracks on here that have already caused a stir on a handful of the more superior daytime radio play lists and so may be familiar to the record buying public. 'Cash Machine' is a fine, up lifting opener, which was also the bands debut single. Don't be surprised if it gets a re-release to support the album as seems to be all the rage these days.

Track 5, 'Hard to Beat' is hard-Fi in a nutshell, a real windows down radio up summer driving anthem. However as the album progresses it becomes more varied and shows that there’s more to the band than initially meets the ear.

As is often the case a ballad is thrown into the melting pot and we have to wait until track 7, 'Move on Now', for the Hard-Fi lighter in the air moment, which is unfortunately one of the weaker songs. Next is 'Better do Better', which is a much greater reflection of the variety on offer with reggae beats in the verses transforming into a typically rocky and catchy chorus that would be at home in Feeders repertoir.

Lyrically they tackle everything from relationships to Feltham, a part of South West London that is marginally less exciting than Staines and is famed for it's young offenders institution, which I believe to be a musical first. In terms of overall sound it is a very English, in fact London sounding album as there isn't a hint of an American twang to the vocals, as can often be the case with British singers. Musically it's a veritable spot the ball of sounds ranging from the rock end of New Order or Electronics' spectrum, to Audio Bullies via the Specials and the Brit Pop era of the mid nineties, plus ever since I've had this album I've not been able to get Prefab Sprout out of my head as far as a vocal comparison which is no bad thing in my book: ask your parents!

Set to pop up at festivals across the summer you'd be well advised to have a look and 'Stars of CCTV' is one of the most enjoyable and impressive records I've heard all year.

You can preview clips of this album by clicking here.