Audio Bullys Chris Davison
If Audio Bullys' music were as dull as producer Tom Dinsdale's responses to my questions (basically: "We're just doing our fing, really"), they never would've been signed--at least not to a label with the quality control of Source Records. Thankfully for music aficionados, Audio Bullys' debut album, Ego War (Source/Astralwerks), while flawed in spots, brings a ballsy ruckus that slips and slides among genres like jellied eels.

The London-based Audio Bullys--who also include young, blokish singer Simon Franks--have been drawing comparisons to fellow British eclectics Basement Jaxx and garage-rap phenom the Streets. Ego War doesn't match the best work of those artists (the Streets' Mike Skinner's a much sharper, deeper lyricist, for one thing), but even its failures are interesting. For instance, "The Things" and "The Snow" use prominent samples from the theme from Police Woman and "Theme from S.W.A.T.," respectively, wedding kitsch orchestration to boom-bappin' electro and cruisin' house, inducing a queasy nostalgia for those of a certain age. And "Face in a Cloud" heists Joe Cocker's melodramatic bellow from classic-rock oblivion and jams it into an acid-funk workout. This sort of '70s/'00s interface takes gumption, but the fit's kind of clunky.

Ego War fares better when Audio Bullys focus on wonky electro funk, over which Franks delivers ruff-neck raps like unjustly forgotten pop-rap outfit Stereo MCs. "Snake" sounds like Odelay-era Beck with a cockney accent, but enhanced by a chilling piano loop of RZA-like coolness. "100 Million" evokes Zapp's elastic, high-cholesterol funk while "The Tyson Shuffle" compresses the eerie Dr. Who TV theme into a choppy electro matrix. The title track's herky-jerky funk recalls Gorillaz with its memorable but gimmicky sing-songy hook. The disc's housier tracks also show promise, as Audio Bullys hitch swoony pop-song melodies to swank, rinse-cycle rhythms.

I ask Dinsdale if he thinks the group's eclecticism works for or against them with regard to being accepted by people in various scenes and the journalists who cover them.

"Slightly against," he says. "We've perhaps been regarded as a little too eclectic when we are in fact much housier, but as more people are seeing us, I think they are starting to understand it better."

Does Dinsdale think Audio Bullys could only be the product of people living in London, where so many styles converge and crossbreed? Or are he and Franks simply keen students of music history with huge record collections trying to remake their favorite songs in their own image?

"I think it's a mixture of both. Inevitably, when making music, you will be influenced by where you're from and the music you're into."

Oh well. With Audio Bullys, it's best if they heed Joe Perry's advice, and let the music do the talking. DAVE SEGAL

With Kuma and the Fitness. Thurs Dec 4 at Chop Suey, 1325 E Madison St, 324-8000, 9 pm-2 am, 21+, $10 adv.