“Hooligan house” is an inadequate term to describe the scope of this remarkable album from Tom Dinsdale and Simon Franks. This certainly isn’t a raved-up Oasis; rather think of the Stereo MCs cohabiting with a leaner Prodigy?hear Franks’ vocals on the opening “The Snake”?with a tinge of The Streets’ urban angst, though there’s none of Mike Skinner’s black humour here.
“100 Million” is a danceable enough start, but things turn seriously bleak with the pitiless “Way Too Long.” propelled by a brilliant sample of Elvis Costello’s guitar riff from “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” constantly stabbing at the song like Stanley knives into the back of the singer’s neck.
Musically, the Bullys come across like the dark side of 1981: “Real Life” could almost be Cabaret Voltaire, while recent hit “We Don’t Care” could be Suggs singing Gary Numan’s “Cars”. Their use of samples is ingenious?hear what they do with Joe Cocker on “Face In A Cloud”?and sometimes poignant (the jaunty ’60s orchestral sample subverting the confusion expressed on “The Things”).
And yet their brutal beats are married to fabulous pop songs. “The Snow” is a dance monster worthy of Basement Jaxx. Primal Scream were once capable of songs like “I Go To Your House”. And the infuriatingly catchy title track, a more realistic “Parklife”, is Madness kidnapped by Fischerspooner. Then hear the dread and uncertainty expressed in the odd untitled extra track, or the sombre drug undertone to the jolly “The Snow”.
Ego War is a grey and foreboding photo of make-do-and-mend Britain in 2003, but it’s a compelling one nonetheless.