Art Brut Bang Bang Rock and Roll [Downtown]

‘Hey, you gotta hear this band’, I said, sliding the new Art Brut into my Honda’s inconspicuous CD player. Thirty seconds, from the passenger seat, my friend declares how sarcastic Art Brut is. A bit taken back, I encourage him to keep and open mind. We listen to track one, as a voice speaks (not sings): “Formed a band, we formed a band. Look at us…we formed a band!” My friend looks at me. ‘What would you call this, if not sarcasm? This is exactly what sarcasm is.’ I don’t get it. I’m confused and hurt. There must be something he’s missing. Isn’t there? Isn’t this one of the most un-sarcastic thing I’ve ever heard?

Art Brut’s Bang Bang Rock and Roll is like a high-school chemistry experiment. With some pretty crude equipment (Eddie Argos’ pipes) in a rather expensive high-school laboratory (the band), Art Brut wants to separate the sex and drugs from the rock and roll. So while the band plays tight, mid-tempo rock songs, Argos sings about un-rocky stuff, like modern art. On another track, the strategy is to keep the jangly riff and replace the conventional sexual imagery with the sweet, sweet nostalgia of a first crush. Art Brut wants to rock, that’s for sure, but they don’t want to hide behind any clichés, phallic or otherwise. Think the Velvet Underground is cool? Not Art Brut.

Argos’ voice, as he proclaims in track one, is not “ironic”, not “rock n roll”…so what is it then? Well, among other things it’s pretty obviously both of those things. So what’s going on? Are they big fat liars? Some may call them that, but not me. Call me a sucka but I believe them. It’s partly their confidence, partly their maturity, but mostly it’s Argos’ affectation that makes me believe them. There’s a different shape to each song. Vulnerable but not whiny. Dorky but not corny. He’s like a character in a story you just “get”. It’s not rocket science; it’s rock and roll. Um, rock and roll about erectile dysfunction.

Art Brut wants to speak-sing directly to the kids. There’s no fireworks, no pretensions, no wool over anyone’s eyes. Fuck the middle-man, fuck the supermarket CDs, they just want the kids. And now we go back into Honda, back to track one, back to track one “Formed a Band.” When the singer announces that he wants to make a song that will “bring Israel and Palestine together.” And me thinking: ‘well, who wouldn’t want to do that?’ And, well, who wouldn’t? And because you won’t do it with your guitars, does that make it sarcastic? I guess it depends if you believe them or not.

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