It's 1999 and
we're watching 'Superock' on MTV, suddenly a song comes on that
totally blows me away. It's one of the greatest songs I've heard,
and I've never even seen this band before. In eager anticipation
for the name at the end of the track ('Old Folks'), I'm astounded
to find out they're called 'A'
A are being described
as the UKs best kept secret and nothing could be further from the
truth. Ever since that night however, I have been a firm A fan,
and after hearing 'Miles Away' on a demo CD and later buying the
fantastic 'A Vs Monkey Kong' album, my love of the group has grown.
The UK music scene
is pretty appalling, the only decent act of recent to be Gorillaz,
but lately there has been a surge of UK rock acts (such as Hundred
Reasons and Lostprophets) pushing forward, with A, although not
officially - but in my personal opinion, at the forefront.
Bassist Dan Carter
has said "I don't want to be in a twee little English band,
I wanna be in a big international rock act. With devil horns."
And Hi-Fi Serious, their third album to date, could very well be
the album that helps him achieve that dream.
What I personally like
about A is the fact that they seem to have the attitude that they
refuse to be cornered into any style, genre or have their sound
and approach dictated by the British music press, namely the NME.
I stopped buying the
NME years ago, and my suspicions were first aroused that it was
full of shit when they gave Paw's 'Dragline' album (probably one
of the finest grunge albums you'll ever hear) 6/10. And the NME
seems like they're out to destroy A; but A don't seem to care like
so many other British bands do.
This whole 'It's British
and the rest of the world must like it because it's British attitude'
hasn't got in the way of A though, who have always kept their music
international. This doesn't necessarily mean American, just non-specific
- it rocks, and that's all anyone needs to know.
And Hi-Fi Serious certainly
does rock. The music has evolved well and A seem to have found their
feet. 'Monkey Kong' was a great album, but there still seemed an
air of uncertainty about their direction, flinging the listener
around between heavy punk, catchy power-pop and chilled out, hazy
melodies. It was a great album, but I find myself track skipping
Not that there are
any bad tracks on the album, but when it holds such classics as
'Monkey Kong', 'Down On The Floor', 'Miles Away' and of course 'Old
Folks' its hard to be patient.
But with Hi-Fi Serious
no skip button is required; each track is as strong and driving
as the next, from the room-shaking epic opening track - 'Nothing'
and moving, sing-a-longable 'Took It Away' ("On-and-on-and-on-and-on")
to the thought-provoking power-pop of 'Starbucks' and the west-coast
driven, hazy summer songs of 'Something's Going On' and 'Pacific
Speaking of west-coast,
'The Distance' deserves a special mention as the track came about
from the bands love of Van Halen - with spectacular Van Halen-esque
guitar noodling solo by Mark Chapman and the thumping, driving bassline
from Dan Carter.
The album does contain
a few mellow tracks such as '6 O' Clock On A Tube Stop' and the
sun-drenched, lethargic 'The Springs', inducing a steady, eyes half-opened
hazy head bobbing; but their positioning in the track list seems
to work better than some of the calmer tracks on 'Monkey Kong'.
Monkey Kong's tracks seemed to go from one extreme to the other,
but Hi-Fi Serious has more gradual curves which don't rise or fall
(in mood, not quality) too far away from each other.
The only questionanable
track is really 'Going Down' which at first seems to be about crashing
in an airplane. The album however, features short header-notes to
each track, with Jason explaining a little about each track. Reading
the 'Going Down' note you realise it's dealing with his thoughts
about how he'd feel if life ended right there and then - if everything
was settled and in order. He goes on to reveal that they considered
pulling the track in light of September 11th, but decided to keep
it in there; which is good - there have been far too many things
removed because of that.
Closing title track
'Hi-Fi Serious' rounds of the album perfectly in a mosh-inducing
frenzy, at times resembling the power pop of 'Monkey Kong', drifting
into a hazy middle-eight and landing smoothly with a chilled out
ending that is reminiscent of the final segment of 'Why Worry' by
Dire Straits (don't laugh until you've heard it), but then picks
up the pace once more to remind you just what's been pumping the
adrenalin for the last 45 minutes.
I had my apprehensions
about this album after hearing the crunching power-single 'Nothing';
not that I didn't like the track - I thought it was great - but
it was very Linkin Park and I wondered if A had been sidetracked
by the current trends.
A - for me - are punky
power-pop, its what they do best and I hoped they hadn't deviated
from a winning formula. Upon hearing this album however, you discover
that nothing is further from the truth (no pun intended). A are
still as energetic and power-poppy as ever, only more so.
Hi-Fi Serious is a
full-on attack, but in a friendly way. Imagine being in the splurge-gun
fight at the end of Bugsy Malone. But more than that I think it's
a big 'up yours' to the British music press from a band who are
devoted to rock and refuse to be dictated by age, trends, and by
what people tell them.
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