PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2005, 12:00am


Stars of CCTV

(Warner Music)

Hard-Fi have been feted as band of the year and dismissed as mere ska revivalists in equal measure. They've been nominated for the Mercury Prize and, more worryingly, NME magazine loves them. But with their Clash-like struts, wired guitars and rebellious punk-rage chants fused with disco, ska, reggae and dance beats, Hard-Fi appear to be steering their own course through Britain's great 21st-century band revival.

Their dark, gritty lyrics about suburban life are as simultaneously mundane and magical as Mike Skinner's The Streets - songs about breaking up, being skint, drinking lager and fighting - and at times at odds with the rousing choruses and killer hooks they have a gift for.

In post-July 7 London, the album's title takes on a grimmer resonance, with frontman Richard Archer singing on the upbeat title track: 'Every move that I make/Gets recorded to tape/So someone up there/Can keep me safe.' They have a knack for capturing the zeitgeist and inverting it with irony.

The sheer breadth of sounds across the 11 tracks is sometimes disconcerting, but it somehow holds together. The ripping opener Cash Machine, infectious dance-edged single Hard to Beat, and early Blur-like laddist refrain over a reggae beat in Unnecessary Trouble, are all genre-defying gems. Music for bedwetters it isn't. Stars of CCTV is the sound of the suburbs in 2005 and a great debut.