No one reveres British culture more so than its own working class, playing up to their uncouth stereotype with a dogged pride. It's echoed on television with Paul Abbott's Shameless, and on the big screen through practically any Danny Dyer film, fuelling the egos of boozed-up sociopaths and haughty louts on every ramshackle council estate block. Much of Audio Bullys's output serves as a soundtrack to Britain's pub-and-club culture, so frequent are the hamfisted references to wanton drinking and drugs.
Higher Than the Eiffel wastes little time before reprising these associations, with singer Simon Franks asking the listener, "What the hell are you on?" on album opener "Drums (On with the Story)." If the group doesn't tend to speak about the reckless abandon of today's coke-addled youth, it's because they're speaking for them: The album plays like a hazy collage of wild nights and the hellish hangovers that follow, vindicating binge drinking and drug-dabbling before touching on the turbulent relationships and sense of despair birthed from these overly indulgent lifestyles.
At its most boisterous and rampant, when the London-based duo seems to be shamelessly reveling in their vices, Higher Than the Eiffel is a formidable dance record—and it sounds like a whole lot of fun to boot. Tom Dinsdale provides lashings of grimy cacophony accented with syncopated beats and throbbing bass, while Franks plays the cockney wide boy with a more earnest, though perhaps a pinch less magnetic, charm than Scroobius Pip. It's also refreshing to see the duo steering clear of the watered down dubstep and neutered drum n' bass that has plagued a number of Britain's most recent electronic records (including Pip's Logic of Chance), electing to tailor everything from P-Funk to schizophrenic punk to fit their house style. "Feel Alright" and "Smiling Faces" are trashy bouts of Justice-esque electro house, while "London Dreamer" is an all-swaggering slice of mongrel hip-hop that uses scratching and an unsettling porno sample to flaunt the fun their having.
It seems as though bastardizing a throng of genres into his own brand of "hooligan house" is Dinsdale's strong suit, and this is where it becomes hard not to envy the merriment behind this giddy exercise in excess. The aforementioned hangovers, though, feel like just that, overly morose and saccharinely slushy numbers that sound labored and fail to give Higher Than the Eiffel the worthwhile breather it needs following those breakneck party numbers. Tracks like "Daisy Chains" and "Shotgun" aim for tranquil euphoria, but misfire and arrive at bland and dreary indie territory instead. Of course, every party has to end, and the high times can't last forever, but these somber numbers conspire to fleece the album of an energy that few artists are capable of conjuring and even less are capable of sustaining.