London - 2002 - 45 minutes

From also-ran pop punkers to stars in waiting, it's quite a turnaround. After two unremarkable albums and a record label looking at the bottom line, English quintet A hooked up with Therapy?/Pixies producer Al Clay, decamped to the rock 'n' roll capital of Belgium and cranked out a collection which will see them back in the red and threatening the US nu-metal monopoly.

While in no way as skewed or accomplished an outfit, the best reference point for 'A' upping their game is Faith No More's 1989 record 'The Real Thing', an album which balanced the killer riff and catchy chorus to perfection and forced its way onto daytime radio. And on 'Hi-Fi' serious there are at least six singles which could claim squatter's rights at the top end of the charts on either side of the pond.

Opener 'Nothing' may convince you that they're after Linkin Park's bank balance but over 45 minutes they pull off California dreaming ballads ('The Springs'), New Wave songs about plane crashes ('Going Down') and an all-pogoing all-harmonising tribute to deceased Beach Boy Dennis Wilson ('Pacific Ocean Blue') without ever sounding like they want to grow up.

Your head may tell you that you left all this stuff behind years ago but this is an album you can't help liking. And humming, and singing, and playing air guitar to and...

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Nothing - Something's Going On - 6 O'Clock on a Tube Stop - Going Down - Took it Away - Starbucks - The Springs - Shut Yer Face - Pacific Ocean Blue - The Distance - W.D.Y.C.A.I. - Hi-Fi Serious