What the f***?! Audio Bullies in the area: the sound of two young West Londoners that have grown up raving to the basslines of hardcore, garage and house. At 22 and 24 they acknowledge the influence of The Specials and The Beatles as readily as they do Todd Edwards and Masters At Work.
Simon Franks and Tom Dinsdale's debut album takes in everything from ska and punk, to funk and UK garage- this is house music with the easy lad-ish charm of Squeeze or Madness, sub-bass beats that tell you to do more than just raise your hands. The raucous energy and streetwise swagger of tracks like "We Don't Care" and "Ego War" show a young band that blends the amphetamine dynamism of The Who with the wry social commentary of The Kinks, and combines it with the ribcage-bending thump of UK club culture. The track "Real Life" sums up the same breathless explosion of urban pop energy The Happy Mondays had with "Wrote For Luck" or The Specials' had with "Too Much Too Young"- but wrapped up in the dirty grooves born out of lives misspent coming up in house and garage raves and coming down listening to pirate radio stations.
"Hit The Ceiling" heads straight from the bar to the dancefloor, a mixture of funk with punk attitude, like Armand van Helden facing off with Jimmy Pursey. "Intro" brings back the straight up funk, but adds a shuffling boogie groove. "The Tyson Shuffle" punches like Lennox, with an off-kilter quasi-ragga riddim announcing a tragi-comic ambulance chase through deserted city streets. Clash fans take note: this is Armageddon Time for 2003. In dub.
So why Audio Bullys? Tom and Simon had both been making music for a couple of years- straight up house, garage, and a few bootlegs they'd prefer to take the fifth on. "We just decided to spend time working together," they explain, in a give-it-a-go kind of way. The results of the experiment were anything but disappointing. ""I Go To Your House" and "We Don't Care" were both made very early on and there was definitely a sound there that fitted the Audio Bullys name so it all rolled from there."
Audio Bullys compel you to rake over the coals of new wave, ska, and punk for reference points: it seems odd for a band whose members were both barely born in 1980. But name checking Bob Dylan and Blondie, Biggie Smalls and Method Man next to early hardcore and jungle tunes, songwriter Simon has no prejudices about when and where music has come from. "I've always been different to my mates in that they don't really listen to old music," says Simon. "But it's too good innit? You get people who say they only like one type of music, but I reckon you can't love music that much if you're like that. The Specials were something I started listening to when I started to make music and was thinking about how someone like me could put across stuff in his songs that was relevant to me and young men and women."
Simon's lyrics tell small-scale tales of young urban life: micro sagas of street corners and party politics. "We write songs about everyday life," explains Simon, "just what you get up to. Try to tell a little story, about what you see around you."
"We just write songs about the things that have happened to us at the time," explains Tom. "We Don't Care" is influenced by our friend who died, but others come from somewhere when we're in a good mood, jokes, just let it happen. There's no agenda for any one track - we're not trying to make a deep house tune just something that goes with the mood." Hence a track like the searing "The Snow" can sum up the kind of Suburban coke nightmare that's already an everyday occurrence in most UK and US cities, but that most artists prefer to sweep under the carpet. While "I Go To Your House" and "Hit The Ceiling" might be the nearest they come to a love song, they both deal with Suburban dating politics and romance with a refreshingly real straight from the shoulder honesty.
Simon grew up in a musical household, with a guitar-playing, song-writing father encouraging him to play piano and drums from an early age. "It was my drumming teacher who showed me how easy it was to put together a track out of samples," he says. Fuelled by jungle and house, garage pirate radio stations and raves- he was set on a mission to make beats.
Tom, the DJ half of the Bullys, had his decks at 16 and was a resident at London club Milk N' 2 Sugars when he was 17. "I went from house into hardcore and back into house again," recalls Tom. Tom has more recently been spotted devastating the dancefloor at the City Rockers club night in London, mixing The Kinks over Leftfield's 'Phat Planet'. "I play a lot of my own stuff now," explains the shy superstar DJ in waiting. "A bootleg of something here or there, house, hip hop. I'm not too worried about clinical production as long as it works."
It's the same shouldn't-work-but-does dot-joining exercise that informs their songwriting. The desire to marry the meaningless nonsense of George Clinton's early 80s electronic funk sagas or a Suburban Base record to the wider concerns of a band. Dance music made without recourse to the rulebook, reflecting both an ear for a classic hook and an eye for the dilemmas of life as a young man growing up in London.
When everyone seems to be proclaiming the death of the music industry, Audio Bullys are two kids still refreshingly hooked on both buying and making records. On taking a short lifetime's worth of music and recycling it into the freshest sound we'll get this year. It don't matter who you know. Cause THIS is real life.