June 07, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Dirty Vegas have no idea how many Americans are familiar with ”Days Go By,” from their upcoming album, Dirty Vegas. In fact, you may not be aware that you know it. The propulsive dance track accompanies a ubiquitous Mitsubishi ad featuring break-dancing hipsters grooving to the tune. The spot hasn’t run in their native London, so DJ Paul Harris, 29 (formerly of Ministry of Sound), vocalist Steve Smith, 28, and DJ Ben Harris, 28 (no relation to Paul), hadn’t seen it until their recent trip to New York City. Now the song, having landed in heavy rotation on MTV, is bigger than Mitsubishi.

While in the Big Apple, the trio joined us for a shopping spree at downtown record mecca Other Music. First stop is the indie-rock section, where Steve picks up Sparklehorse’s It’s a Wonderful Life because a friend had told him it sounded like Radiohead and Gary Wilson’s You Think You Really Know Me because I mention that Beck is a fan of the ’70s oddball. ”I don’t really know most of this stuff,” he admits, surveying the shop’s eclectic collection.

They warm up as we hit hip-hop. Paul nabs In Search Of…, by N.E.R.D., a.k.a. the Neptunes, based on the duo’s production credits. ”They did Britney, right?” he asks. ”I’ve only heard a few of their tracks, but they’re fantastic.” All three rejoice over Grandmaster Flash’s recent Essential Mix: Classic Edition, with Blondie’s ”Rapture,” Afrika Bambaataa’s ”Planet Rock,” and 14 other block rockers. ”I have every one of these cuts on vinyl,” declares Paul. ”It’s great party music.” Ben adds: ”As a kid, I was into rock music. My family played Marvin Gaye and Neil Young. I listened to the Jam and crap like Duran Duran. For anyone looking for something different, there was hip-hop. ‘Planet Rock’ started a fervor in south London.”

Dirty Vegas are in their true element when we spin over to electronica. Paul is happy to find a used copy of the two-CD dance compilation JBO A Perspective 1988-1998, with tracks by New Order and St. Etienne, plus remixes of My Bloody Valentine, U2, and Bjork, for $9.99. He has the set but insists I buy it, lest a bargain be missed. Ben grabs the new Verve Remixed, on which DJs rework cuts from jazz vocalists like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. ”I love Masters at Work and Rae & Christian,” he says. ”I can’t wait to hear what they did on this.”

We’re ready to pay up, but there’s just one more disc to find. ”Hey! Where’s Dirty Vegas?” asks Steve.

”It’s not out here yet,” says Paul, smiling. ”We’ll have to come back.”

You May Like