7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Third time lucky for Britain's best rock band, 3 Nov 2002
By now most people will have heard of A, after the release of Nothing in February. The opening track from A's third studio album Hi-Fi Serious marks a change from A's normal sound, with a much heavier riff which suited the sound popular at the time.
Hi-Fi Serious is more grown-up A. Relationships (Something's Going On, Shut Yer Face) vs being single (Sing-a-long, How Ace Are Buildings) and acceptance of mortality (Going Down) vs idyllic holidays (I Love Lake Tahoe, A Vs Monkey Kong). But they haven't lost their sense of humour, or their love of life and Van Halen guitar solos (Pacific Ocean Blue, The Distance and Hi-Fi Serious). Despite having been going for six years now, A are still strong, and judging by the B-sides from the recent singles, will get better and soon be recognised globally as Kings of Rock. I'd like to see A in thirty years time, doing a reunion tour and releasing their fifty-millionth album and having sold countless millions of records, a bit like the Rolling Stones are now, but much much bigger.
The artwork for Hi-Fi Serious is different from the ‘traditional’ style of the previous releases. The flaming A logo has been stylishly ‘distressed’, and everything’s matching in black, white and red. All the lyrics are there, with little notes from the band about each song, thanks from the band to everyone who helped, and a little message to the fans.
Nothing, as I’ve said, has a great heavy riff, and it’s nice to see/hear Mark Chapman being given something loud to do. There’s a lot of good guitar stuff on this album. Something’s Going On, the third single (released on the 18th) is a euphoric song about falling in love with such bounciness of guitars that it sounds like something that got left off Free All Angels for being too good.
Six O’Clock On A Tube Stop is a song about paranoia which is fantastic live, JP’s vocals doing their usual thing of mixing with the guitars and backing vocals to make a sound unlike anything ever. Going Down follows with lyrics about the last few minutes of life before a plane crash. It’s about as melancholy as A get, sounding like Summer On The Underground (A Vs Monkey Kong). Even on morbid subjects like this, A still sound alive and kicking, and the lyrics are not defeatist either - “I leave my debts but no regrets except I wish I took the train”.
Took It Away starts a run of songs which is the best section of an album I’ve ever come across. It’s A cussing the state of the charts, full of boyband rubbish, with keyboard bits that go right back to Monkey Kong. Classic. Watch people try to headbang their heads off at gigs to this one.
Next in the Best Running Order Ever is Starbucks, the second single from the album. More classic A, about sticking it to the Man, which went down well with the new fans drawn by Nothing. (See my review of the single for a true rant). Taking it down a notch or two is The Springs, with wistful images of a home away from home, missing your girl/boy, putting up with it all to do a job you love.
Shut Yer Face brings the mood back into daft bouncy almost rap about the differences between girls and boys but how it’s alright in the end. This was nearly released over the summer as a duet with a female vocalist - Pink (ergh) and Gwen Stefani were mentioned but nothing came of it. Here we see more of Mark’s mentalism on the guitar. It’s hilarious live - looks like he’s on a spring, bounce down, bounce up down up ...
Pacific Ocean Blue is one of my favourite songs on the album, and would probably be in my top ten A songs. Totally optimistic with an amazingly singable chorus. The words bring up images of A larking about on midnight beaches. Which they probably were, the scamps. The Distance keeps it going with some amazing Van Halen emulation from Mr Chapman. It’s a song that never lets up and nearly killed me last time I saw them. Three and a half minutes of non-stop berserking is hard work. “Spending your cash like a man with no hands, keeping it real like your favourite band” - A are keeping it punk with proper damn music that makes you tired.
WDYCAI is another dig at the state of music today - this time the whinging nu-metallers who have run out of stuff to whine about. Another chorus to die for. Guitar, keyboard, and vocals combine to make more sublime noise. JP’s voice is so distinctive that I knew Nothing was A despite the music being completely not what I was expecting. Ahhhhh ...
The title track finishes the album with a bit of self-indulgence for A. And they’ve damn well deserved it. Continuing the theme of counting their albums - “Coming back at you, record number 2” (If It Ain’t Broke, How Ace ... ) and reminding everyone about the great job they have - “way too loud for radio, mosh pit full of casualties, OAPs get in for free” (when they were promoting Old Folks, anybody who brought an Old Folk along to the gig got in free. How cool is that?). Hi-Fi Serious is A making the outro last as long as they can, and fitting in more cool drum and guitar stuff than should be allowed.
Long live the A!