Audio Bullys could be described as one of the most forward thinking groups of the new century so far.
Their unfiltered tales of everyday life are very different from those of The Streets, say – and in fact they could almost be called The Men From The Streets, due to Simon Franks’ straight down the middle delivery. Their first two albums have occasionally hinted at the onset of grime and even a form of dubstep, drawing from The Specials and Madness but using the influences to their own gain.
And Madness do appear here; well, Suggs does at any rate, on This Road, for a piece of authentic old-to-new Cockney garage. But sometimes Franks and Tom Dinsdale take their urban ‘geezerness’ too far, and end up with songs that don’t say very much. Only Man is an example of this – but it stands out simply because the rest of the album is strong, and at times affecting.
The pair bring out a strange sense of poetry at times, with evocative talk of the “dandelions floating on the breeze” in Daisy Chains. Clearly they still possess the ability to write a catchy tune, too, and the “she keeps looking my way” refrain in Dynamite is evidence of that, topped off nicely with some sultry strings.
In fact as the album progresses it strengthens its resolve. Drained Out is an excellent track, possibly autobiographical if we can read anything into the profound delivery from Franks. Just like The Streets’ Original Pirate Material, he references too much brandy – but this is a lot less brash, topped off as it is with cocaine. Less fight down the pub, more head in hands on the bottom stair – and very much someone looking for a way back.
“I’ve pissed away everything I have,” says Franks, frankly. It’s not too late though – for this is definitely the finest material we’ve heard from the Bullys since their debut, in the most part naturally written and delivered. They’re heading back to form in time to conquer a festival or two – but the nature of that song does leave you wondering if Franks will just be happy to be back at all.