A Communication
Hi-Fi Serious

A Hi-Fi Serious
CD review

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'…who?!

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 these days.

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 Ocean Blue'.

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.


david twomey

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