How many times, in the post-Strokes r‘n’r landscape we inhabit, have you heard a band say “Well, ha! We annoyed you and therefore we obviously caused a reaction!” What, and so you succeeded?! Don’t know about you, but I wanna be moved rather than annoyed by a lack of substance in my bands, and you can’t even tell such charlatans to fuck off ‘cos it’d just fuel their pithy, pointless reasons for making music.
Art Brut aren’t that sort of band. I feel adverse to say how they’ve split opinion to such a polar extent because often that sounds like a by-product of vacuous hype. But every letters page, messageboard and heckle that’s been about them since Rough Trade unleashed ‘Formed A Band’ all those months ago has come across like the proverbial line in the sand. On one side there’s those saluting their scattergun tunes expressing pent-up modern suburbia and adolescent frustration, and on the other there’s those who think that they don’t mean it, that this is all some sort of joke, and have hence dismissed them as the pseudo-ironic, intermediate Ikara Colt. I’m with the former, and after hearing debut album ‘Bang Bang Rock And Roll’ I can say that, if it _is_ some sort of joke all along, I’m not so much laughing as dancing like a monkey on fire.
Hang on, you say. “pent-up modern suburbia”? “Adolescent frustration”? Doesn’t this make the Brut a guitar-toting New Cross Streets or the shoutier millennial Jilted John for the hairstyle-obsessed scenesters? Well, perhaps, if ‘Fight’ (“Wassa matter? Wut? Nothin’?”) and ‘Emily Kane’ (“I want schoolkids on buses singing your name”) are anything to go by, respectively. But it’s much more than that, and ‘BBR&R’ has more in common with The Jam’s riffing, Mark E Smith’s delivery, Pulp’s portrayal of (eek!) working class emotion and…dare I say it…the original punk attitude than most will readily admit to. Such analytical musings should be banished, though, when you’ve got a guy screaming “MODERN ART! MAKES ME! WANT TO ROCK OUT!” This isn’t irony, it’s barely rock n’ roll, it’s just life imitating art and art writing explosive, truly thrilling post-Britpop art-punk monologues about it.
Okay, so maybe ‘Stand Down’ is an ill-advised stab at politics, and Eddie Argos’ tale of not being able to get it up in ‘Rusted Guns Of Milan’ is a bit more information about his personal life than we would’ve liked (“I’m fine when I am with my own hand”…uh, thanks for sharing, Eddie). Even if the steady harmonies and “I know I can” refrain make it sound like a cross between Supergrass’ ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ at the wrong speed and the locomotive in ‘Dumbo’. But, well, it wouldn’t be much fun if things were perfect, would it? As for the remainder, its astounding that AB can reel off so many downright enjoyable songs that it almost hurts. ‘Formed A Band’ is revisited with a renewed, nearly Pixies-esque shouty vigour, no longer as much a call to arms as a celebration that they’re still together over a year later. ‘Emily Kane’ says more about unrequited teenage kicks than any textbook on the hormonal process could. And if ‘Moving To LA’’s exotic strumming and sweet escapism doesn’t get them on their beloved Top Of The Pops then the BBC doesn’t know what’s good for them. If you were worried that ‘BBR&R' might not deliver then here’s the pudding with a side order of, ahem, proof custard.
Dye your hair black, stay off the crack. Buy this album, see ‘em live, and go form a band. I’d love to see the look on Fearne Cotton’s face.
9Thomas Blatchford's Score