Art Brut; a funny little band. Literally. That’s a compliment. Their debut album, the audacious and acclaimed ‘Bang Bang Rock N Roll’ celebrated, lambasted and accosted issues of young love lost and gained, forming a band, impotency and the disposability of pop culture with the kind of ambivalent impudence that was previously the exclusive preserve of say Mark E Smith and Jarvis Cocker, if you can picture that genetic hybrid. They weren’t subtle, they were obvious, and a bit damaged, misshapen, the lumpy custard creams of pop that importantly still tasted divine dunked in a cuppa when you rolled in from a shit indie club having split up with your girlfriend for mentioning your childhood sweetheart’s name in error too many times. They seemed like the kind of band that would never quite break through, but carry on being almost-brilliant forever, or at least until their second album when they’d split up before they had the chance not to be brilliant.
Only there was some kind of ripple in the space-time continuum and in spite of remaining a funny little band in the UK, their dry British quips inexplicably propelled them to superstardom in Germany, stuck them on the cover of their Rolling Stone, and even saw their star rise in the US – Pitchfork staffers can regularly be caught salivating perversely over sealed promo copies of ‘Emily Kane’. All of which must have exorcised some influence over the London-centric band’s diligent, sarcastic ordinariness – you know, like when Razorlight started hanging with Kirsten Dunst.
With great relief though we can announce that Art Brut have followed no such trajectory. They are, after all, only big in Germany. Like David Hasselhoff. But the key thing is they are still brilliant in much the same way they were brilliant before; recognition has if anything tidied up their sound, but that has somehow only made them more brilliant. Which essentially means they don’t sound as much like The Fall anymore. They sound much more Britpop. Not in an amazingly good way, but that’s kind of brilliant, appropriate in itself.
“I know I shouldn’t, it’s possibly wrong,” starts Eddie Argos sagely on opener ‘Pump Up The Volume’, “to break from your kiss, to turn up a pop song”. And that pop song is undoubtedly some generic amalgamation of Sleeper singles, early Supergrass b-sides and 60ft Dolls’ roughest limbs, that sashays just enough this way, and dallies just enough that to keep Argos’ consistently grin-some lyrics afloat, delivering you on an indie disco cloud to couplets and choruses that you’ll holler out loud every time and would scribble on your pencil case if you still had one. And actually, there is the one nod towards their German celebrity; “I’m sorry if my accent’s flawed, I learnt my German from a, 7” record”.
It feels in a way like they’ll never top those classic first few singles, but there are some brilliant brilliant moments on this record, not least the post-break-up Pulp vs. Weezer emotional-rehab rock of ‘People In Love’ and the running away, breakneck mixtape epic ‘Nag Nag Nag Nag’. The lack of those early classics though means that the album never really overshoots itself or runs out of steam, which was in retrospect one of the only criticisms you could level at that first record. Still a funny little band then, still laughing – even if a joke’s never as funny as the first time, there are some that simmer and get you over and over.share this: