Personnel: James A. Smith (vocals, guitar); Jill Fricker (vocals); Tony Bizarro (guitar).
Recording information: Alaska Studios.
Photographer: Adam Ambery-Smith.
We Rule the Universe was the only full-length by the Beach Bullies, an early-'80s U.K. post-punk duo consisting of guitarist James A. Smith and Jill Fricker, along with a drum machine. The two vocalists traded off humorous lyrics about subjects such as eating on British trains and window-shopping. There's more serious subject matter, such as painful breakups, but even songs like the haunting "Sob Story" effortlessly incorporate sharp jabs and pointed quips. Given Smith's association with the Soft Boys, it's hard not to compare his lyrics and sense of humor to Robyn Hitchcock's, but Smith doesn't have the psychedelic, surrealist bent of Hitchcock. They're a bit closer to the stark observations of the Television Personalities' Dan Treacy, but the Bullies' sense of humor isn't quite as deadpan as his. The vocals (especially Smith's) seem very casual and untrained, making the band seem like a jokey spare-time side project, and the album like somewhat of a novelty record. It's generally a fun one, though. The singers are both quick and clever, and their best songs are catchy and lighthearted without being too cute for their own good. [Brooklyn-based reissue label Manufactured Recordings gave We Rule the Universe its first ever reissue in 2015, including demos for the band's unfinished, unreleased second album.] ~ Paul Simpson