Audio Bullys

Higher Than the Eiffel

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    7
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A tad gun-shy after their lackluster sophomore album, Generation, Audio Bullys waited five years to release another album, but it shows them able to muster their distinctive talents -- courtesy of a world-wise frontman and a distinctive producer -- to put up numbers worthy of their debut nearly ten years earlier. Vocalist Simon Franks has finally found his groove, fortunately ignoring both rapping and the street-swagger of a Mike Skinner or Jamie T.; here he's more of an elder statesman for British clublife, taking the role of Ian Brown or Shaun Ryder. Producer Tom Dinsdale has matured as well (in a good way), staying away from British house mostly to embrace all sorts of styles, from acid house to Northern soul to garage and punk -- all delivered with plenty of grime. (And some sections diverge even farther from the playbook, including the minute-long a cappella that closes out "Daisy Chains," worthy of the Zombies' finest moments.) Higher Than the Eiffel is most reminiscent of the work that Freestylers and Lo-Fidelity Allstars were doing eight to ten years ago. Both of them aged into their classic full-length statement with surprising grace, and made intriguing music long after most punters had deserted them.

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