One imagines that Audio Bullys reveal everything that goes on in a typical rough and ready London lad’s mind. From aggression to repressed and awkward sentimentality, Audio Bullys are much more than just a dance act. But it must be said, despite the self-conscious but brilliant downtempo “I’m in Love” from 2005’s Generation, it’s those loutish, rough dance tracks that we skip to.
This time around, Higher Than the Eiffel still has its share of four-to-the-floor “We Don’t Care”-esque anthems, and but their dance music palette is wider than ever. The Bullys flaunt with bassline in the quirky “The Future Belongs to Us”, with Daft Punk funk in “Drained Out” and Justice-meets-New Order in the magnificent “Feel Alright”. Simon Franks’s quintessentially London accent is a relief to hear amongst so many twee male vocalists from the same city. They wouldn’t want to argue with him over who sounds fresher in this current musical climate.
No matter what avenue of dance music they choose to meld with their tough guy beats and raps, it’s refreshing to hear that the Bullys don’t polish up for anyone. There is no sign of any modern dance trends on here at all, no ’80s synth chords, no electropop programming, and certainly no Auto-Tune. Album highlight “London Dreamer” flaunts with old school hip-hop beats and a Wild West whistle loop, and samples what sounds like a cheap porn film, looping and triggering an orgasm to an awkward but disarming affect. When Audio Bullys are on form, they really do have you by the balls.
It gets heavier. The thunderous bass on “Shotgun” comes out of nowhere, a slice of delicious reverb-heavy electro house sandwiched in between tongue-in-cheek ballad verses. The Bullys also flex their dirty electro house muscle on opener “Drums (On with the Story)” and the French house stylings of “Smiling Faces”. (There’s Justice again… but didn’t Audio Bullys do it first anyway?) And the rock ‘n’ roll guitars of “Kiss the Sky” are among the funkiest hooks here, and that’s no mean feat.
As opposed to the saccharine nature of “I’m in Love”, Higher Than the Eiffel sports two relatively bleak downtempo tracks. “Daisy Chains” is pleasingly dark trip-hop, despite nonsensical lyrics, but “Dragging Me Down” claims that “no one’s dragging me down” — I beg to differ. Although fine, the slower tracks break the flow and funk of the album rather than effectively breaking it up. Placed next to something as addictive as “Feel Alright” or “Shotgun”, the Bullys sadly cannot pull off Massive Attack. The insistence on including two tedious Madness Brit-ska ditties is another eight minutes the album could quite happily do without.
In general, though, when the Bullys have their sights set on the dancefloor, whether it be a drug fueled downer house anthem or a colossal electro groove, they seem most at home. Luckily, this is most of the time, and as a result Higher Than the Eiffel is thoroughly enjoyable as an alternative dance record.