Recently it has become very easy to accuse new bands of trying to cash in on the “dance-rock” craze made popular by such bands as Franz Ferdinand and The Killers. Many newer bands (The Futureheads, Bloc Party), and older rock-outfits (Of Montreal, Modest Mouse) alike seem to have taken notice of the charms of this no-longer-so-niche sub-genre.
With their debut album, Stars of CCTV, it would seem this Staines, England quartet is destined to be associated with this genre’s slew of imitators. Pumping drum beats, lyrics dominated by young, hipster love and an overabundance of guitar hooks are just a few of the conventions the band borrows on their highly-acclaimed first album.
With all the right boxes ticked, one might assume that Hard-Fi has created an album of the same caliber as its predecessors. Unfortunately Stars of CCTV is, on the surface level, a rather bland attempt. Blatant imitation has led to 11 tracks that sound like nothing more than Franz Ferdinand B-sides. The song “Gotta Reason,” for example, could be mistaken for an earlier, faster working of Ferdinand’s latest hit “Do You Want To.”
The charms of this album come after a few listens when it is possible to catch the subtle nuances of the compositions. “Unnecessary Trouble” is one such song, underscored by a horn section straight out of a 60s spy film. The calypso break down on “Middle Eastern Holliday” succeeds in salvaging an otherwise dull political statement. Even “Move on Now,” a Coldplay inspired piano ballad, helps dig Stars of CCTV out of a rut by giving listeners a break from the fast-paced tempo of the other 10 tracks.
Stars of CCTV is an admirable debut. The subtle variations on the dance-rock genre show a willingness to experiment reminiscent to (but not nearly as bold as) the Clash. Unfortunately the album’s shining moments are few and far between, and in the end Hard-Fi’s opus falls flat. Apparently the boys aren’t the “stars” mentioned in the album’s title… yet.