There are very few groups who can easily get away with putting out an album which begins with a Nancy Sinatra rework, features duets with the likes of Roots Manuva and Suggs, while staying true to the sound which made them. Somehow the Audio Bullys manage this on their second outing.
As if a statement of intent, albeit laughably, the intro welcomes back Simon Franks’ pot-smoking, pill-popping, wife-beating, bottle-lobbing, ‘yes I do live on a council estate thank you very much’, vocal persona: “And we’re taking a new direction…and we’re taking a new direction…” our Simon says. That’s been evident with the edgy Shot You Down and the more recent, more surprising ballad I’m In Love.
The emphasis with Generation seems to be on cramming in as many styles as possible. This gets tediously close to “look I’m a DJ, watch what I can play,” rendering listening the first few times a nauseating experience.
The lyrics department is unsurprisingly still left wanting, though Franks has dumped most of the loutish lines which populated 2003’s Ego War. Keep On Moving offers a slightly more mature if predictable observation of Franks moving from nobody to somebody via memories of the ‘hood: “The club scene was banging at the time/house n’ garage, pills and white lines.”
Thankfully there’s nothing quite as low as “You’re fit and don’t you know it” but then again Franks isn’t aiming for the chav crowd which Mike Skinner has conquered with his eloquence. But of course the Audio Bullys aren’t and never were about lyrical genius. It was killer beats and energetic anthems abundant on Ego War encapsulated in the likes of Way Too Long and We Don’t Care which made them.
For those looking for more of the same they may be disappointed in that just two of the tracks bear some resemblance to the older Bully’s sound. The title track takes this to a new level with a pulsing bass line that’ll do wonders for boy racers. All Sing Along is more like it with Franks on furious form.
Tom Dinsdale of course keeps the ship steady with even more lucid knob work which can’t help but hark back to references to early nineties house (Take You There). And of the duets? Made Like That errs on casting Franks as a wigger in front of a mirror when Roots Manuva assumes duties. Suggs compliments the electro melodies of If This Road happily, though as a finale to the album things get very disjointed when they jump from house to melody to the tender jazz of Struck By The Sound.
Purists who look for structure and concept in an album a la The Wall can forget about it. The Audio Bullys have a completely different Generation in mind and have safely avoided shooting themselves in the foot on the oft difficult sophomore album. They carry on, one step forward with their back foot firmly planted on a dirty, spit and gum sodden piece of concrete, for now at least.