Audio Bullys: Generation

Audio Bullys have made an awkward in-between album.

Audio Bullys


Label: Astralwerks
US Release Date: 2006-01-24
UK Release Date: 2005-10-31
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Insound affiliate

I did an informal poll among some of my friends: I played them two songs off Audio Bullys’ new CD, Generation, asking them to rate each on a scale from 1 to 5. Here’s a roughly aggregated response. Over 80% of those surveyed gave “Shot You Down” a 4 or 5 out of five. Over two thirds of them gave “I’m in Love” a 4 or 5. It’s a shame that, compared to those hard-hitting singles, most of the rest of the album comes across as little more than filler.

Audio Bullys, the English duo of producer Tom Dinsdale and MC Simon Franks, received a mixed, but generally positive, review for their 2003 debut, Ego War. A typical critical response was that Audio Bullys were an interesting, if not fully formed, a group with a few incendiary singles, slamming production, and lyrics that are simplistic and disappointing. All of this holds true returning to that album after three years. The evocation of gritty street life, a direct descendent and pale imitator of Mike Skinner’s acutely observed cockney-rap, found a new voice in the pairing with bullish electro-garage beats; the result was at its best thrilling, but at its worst, plodded irreconcilably.

So what has changed on the group’s follow-up, Generation? Let’s start with those two 4 or 5 star songs. In their different ways, these are both excellent tracks and worth seeking out, either via iTunes or whatever other program you generally use. “Shot You Down” is the classic sample-based commercial dance track – we get the acoustic, slow introduction; the gunshot-signal of a breakdown; the addictive recycled bass beat. Halfway through, the bass drops out and the sample is all alone again. In this case, it’s Nancy Sinatra singing “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), recently familiar from Kill Bill. And the recycled bass – it’s a kind of watered-down version of Paul Johnson’s 1999 song, “Get Get Down”. By-the-numbers, perhaps, but it gets the job done, jump-starting the album with a literal bang. “I’m In Love”, on the other hand, is pure pop through and through. Dropping the thug attitude, Franks almost captures the giddy exuberance of the Beatles’ “She Loves You”, singing rather than rapping most of the time, “Love, keep on working your magic”. At the same time, Dinsdale ditches the attitude too, so we get a sweeping Europop synth two-step. It’s sweet, simple and works perfectly.

The bad news is, most of the rest of the album is passable. In general, most of the songs on Generation stick to the not-always-successful formula Audio Bullys developed on Ego War. On “Keep on Moving” we get Franks’ slow exposition of his gritty childhood (“Since the day I’ve spoken my home was broken / So when the door was open I was out and smoking”) over a sample of “Midnite Cruiser” by Steely Dan; the effect is not tough but just irrelevant. “All Sing Along” implores the listener to “all sing along when I sing”, but there is no melody for us to sing. “Made Like That” reduces the otherwise impressive Roots Manuva to the eighths-only delivery characteristic of Franks’ own.

What nobody seems to realize, Franks and Dinsdale included, is that the Audio Bullys are best when they are being pure pop sans-attitude, and that doesn’t matter whether it is dance-pop or radio-pop. Because most of the time they choose attitude over melody or innovation, Generation slips into would-have, could-have territory. The two songs where we can forget this bullying persona are far and away the album’s best.

Audio Bullys, then, have made an awkward in-between album. Neither dedicated to the dancefloor or the radio, it is mostly stuffed with half- tracks; either the bass-line is foot-shufflingly aggressive but the lyrics laughable, or the melody has been replaced with simple repeated calls (“sing along”, “I won’t let you down”). Before iTunes, Generation could have been a hit, with two better-than-solid singles and a Lock, Stock-esque likeable thug attitude. But today, all I can really recommend is that you download “Shot You Down” and “I’m In Love”, and pass on the rest.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.