"Excuse me," one clearly confused reveler asks, tugging the hem of Amanda Rootes, central component in UK trash compactor glampunks Fluffy. "Are you a Spice Girl?"

"Ooohhh!" glares Rootes, spinning on her platform heels. "You don't know how insulting that is!"

Insulting, but hardly the first time the accusation's been leveled at Rootes' besequined form. It's a crass and very easy route for Americans to travel when confronted with a gaggle of veddy, veddy British nubiles, as easy as the "punkier Elastica" charges Fluffy received pre-Spice girls. How anyone could make similar mistakes after auditing the band's corrosive Black Eye CD, or witnessing them plying the trade in the flesh, would surely scramble the brainwaves of the most sussed-out philosophers.

What the confuselings have failed to grasp is how Fluffy "is totally Johnny Thunders," as gangly blonde Mancunian bassist Helen Storer puts it. "Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders, thank you very much! We owe you everything!" Yup, with their learning-in-public philosophy of band maintenance, lipsticked sneer, platforms and sequins, and their dedication to raw amphetamine teenage chaos of years past (need we run down the obvious Stooges/MC5/Pistols/Ramones/Motorhead shopping list?), their boldly-stated goal is obvious to any seasoned observer: "We just wanted to be a female New York Dolls."

Are they? Well, that's not for any of us to decide. But some uncanny parallels enter their profile. Like the Dolls, Fluffy in their pre-Fluffy moments were a gang-of-four prowling every hip London party, preening and dangerous and fun. On a wheeze, they (including exotic, part-Filipino drummer Angie Adams and Austrian powerchorder Bridget Jones, who replaced original guitarist Pandora Ormsby-Gore) decided to pick up instruments and form a band, out of "boredom." This was a mere three years ago, and though Rootes admitted to Rockrgrl magazine she'd been writing songs since her childhood, this is literally their first band, and it shows. They ain't Bob Dylan in the songwriting department, nor are they Jimi Hendrix or Billy Cobham or Jack Bruce on their respective axes. But they don't wanna be, either. What they want is to be either Johnnys Thunders or Rotten, and for their troubles they've earned their native land's enmity.

"That's fine," snaps Storer.

"English music is so booorring, right now, anyway," sneers Rootes. "It's getting to be more and more of a pleasure to be hated in England, these days," sniffs Adams.

"It would be so easy to change our sound to appeal to English audiences," says Storer. "But why do that? It's more honest to do what we want."

Hence, their intense concentration on America, a country which not only spawned most of Fluffy's influences, but which has become more accepting of its punky heritage the past few years. Fluffy signed with The Enclave, the boutique label started by Tom Zutaut, the man who brought Guns N' Roses to Geffen. They've also embarked on a punishing American touring schedule, building for themselves an audience Rootes describes as "really glamorous girls with a lot of attitude who wanna start bands (hmmm...), punk rockers, a lot of sweaty boys in Ramones and Nirvana t-shirts moshing up front." The Enclave's also been flexing much promo muscle behind Fluffy, even going so far as financing a disturbing video for Black Eye's harrowing title tale of life with an abusive boyfriend or two, lensed by currently incandescent vid director Floria Sigismondi, responsible for all those nerve-clawing, Quay Brothersish clips for Marilyn Manson and David Bowie. Which partly explains the packed house Fluffy faced at Emo's during South By Southwest, the record industry's fave excuse to invade Austin, TX, and raid its vast supplies of barbecue and Shiner Bock. In addition to charred beef and indigenous brews, the biz's primary staple is hype. Hence, they smelled blood at the headlining slot at Emo's, guaranteeing a large percentage of people who get paid to be too cool to dance behind six rows of sweaty, moshing Ramones and Nirvana t-shirts.

"STOP YER SCHMOOZING!" Rootes orders the minute she takes the stage. From that moment, it's one long inebriated sneer.

"SHOW US YER TITS!" snarled one of the few non-biz young-and-horney's up front.

"COME UP 'ERE!" Rootes slurred back. "I'LL KICK YER COCK OFF!"

"DO ME!" went one of the more imaginative endearments.

"I can't," Rootes cooed in reply. "It's too small!"

When the nerve and attitude aren't flying verbally, they are vented visually and musically. Rootes spends the entirety of the performance with one foot perched atop a monitor, rasping out revenge against a million evil suitors (name any given tune), poor transvestites spotted at Don Hill's ("Cosmetic Dog"), and waking up in a "bed or vomit" ("Technicolor Yawn"). She strokes the guitar sparingly, her bandmates kicking up a good, basic noise.

"God, doesn't she look like Drew Barrymore's evil twin?" someone cracks nearby. Someone else wonders aloud if Rootes is wearing underwear.

The set builds and builds, the tension finally exploding with a climactic bulldoze through the Who's immortal "I'm A Boy", gender unchanged. In Fluffy's hands, it ends up the best Sex Pistols tune the Pistols never wrote.

Those moshing Nirvana and Ramones shirts mosh even harder. The suits yawn the yawns they're paid to yawn. Fine. "They're not very original, are they?" one suit asks me. "Gee," I reply, eyeing his Oasis pin, "you mean to tell me Noel Gallagher is?!"

Fluffy couldn't care less. They're clearly enjoying themselves that night and during the following day spent pressing flesh at SXSW, drinking the Miller Beer they've grown to love across their umpteen American tours, posing for photos with Woody Harrelson who doesn't seem all that far removed from his namesake Cheers character, delivering withering remarks about bands they see the next night. ("Cor, they're like a poor man's BUSH, aren't they?")

Sleep's becoming a luxury, the only thing seemingly keeping Fluffy standing being their platforms. Amanda watched over her bandmates like a mom or big sister, even going so far as attempting to set up Angie and Helen with men they fancy. (She can't help it if Angie's new friend bottles out, begging some sort of fear of sex.) The blondes eventually prove to have more stamina than either of their darker-haired companions, enduring the sub-Beefheart metallicisms of the Cows as Angie and Bridget return to their hotel. Helen falls so hard for the Cows' psycho ward reject vocalist Shannon Selberg, she's rendered speechless upon meeting him.

"My father was a publican," Rootes remarks between meditative sips on a Miller bottle. "He also a musician, playing in a few small bands." A faraway look enters Amanda's eyes. "I guess I'm truly Daddy's girl." Daddy Rootes could've done worse. He produced a 24-year-old London Doll. He could've inadvertently raised a Spice Girl.