Brits bring brutally fun satirical rock to Subterranean

By Salom Teshale

“Don’t listen to people in bands! They’re drunk; they don’t know what they’re doing!”

Eddie Argos, lead singer of Art Brut, had just finished a minute-long digression about his old girlfriend right in the middle of singing “Emily Kane.” He pointed a finger at the crowd to emphasize his message; the crowd roared back in joy and sang along with him when the band began playing once more.

Such is the power of Art Brut, a band that is clearly a parody of a rock band and that welcomes everyone in on the joke—from the names (Jasper Future, Freddy Feedback) to the subjects of their music (fighting, partying, erectile dysfunction) to their lyrics (“It’s not irony, and it’s not rock and roll… we’re just talking…to the kids”)

Art Brut expertly skewers the affected cool of modern rock bands and has a lot of fun at the same time. Argos was clearly the star of the show, playing the frontman to a tee. He does not actually sing so much as shout his tongue-in-cheek lyrics—he yells “Ready, Art Brut!” before beginning each song; he delivers long missives about whatever he happens to be thinking about at the moment in a laconic English accent; he raises a hand imploringly to the crowd and squints his eyes when singing, as if trying to convince the crowd he really can’t stand the sound of the Velvet Underground.

Jasper Future and Ian Catskilkin, playing rhythm and lead guitar, respectively, back him up with standard yet undeniably catchy dance-punk riffs, jumping around the stage or leading clap-alongs. Freddy Feedback and Mikey B complete the rhythm section in laid-back style, and it all comes together to make for an immensely energetic and entertaining show.

Playing to a packed house of smoking hipsters in suit jackets, with a few teenagers scattered throughout, Argos and the band stirred the crowd into a perpetual state of moshing while playing new tracks and a mixture of songs off their debut album, Bang Bang Rock and Roll. A highlight of the set was “Modern Art,” when Argos left his mike and jumped down from the small stage onto the floor to pogo with the crowd, yelling the song’s chorus.

The new songs, including “Sankt Pauli,” apparently about Italy, and “Nag Nag Nag Nag”, the new single, promise more of the same on their next album, and the crowd loved it all.

Art Brut almost refuse to take themselves seriously—at one point during the interlude of “Moving to LA,” Argos actually imitated a jet plane by spreading his arms out and making whooshing noises to the beat.

But underneath all of the shouting and all of the self-conscious posturing, there’s a real honesty to their songs—they capture the youthful excitement of teenage love, the dissatisfaction and ennui of crappy weekends, and other average, yet universal facts of life.

This was demonstrated best in “Rusted Guns of Milan”; the song, about Argos’s inability to, let’s call it…function under pressure from his girlfriend, is both hilarious and tragic as he sings, “Don’t tell your friends!/ Don’t tell your friends!/ I promise!/ It will never happen again!” With this song and others, Art Brut effectively says in three minutes what other bands take years to say. So while Art Brut may not be terribly earnest about being a band, and while in the greater scheme of things they may be written off as a joke, for an hour at least they make you want to form a band of your own. More importantly, they serve as a reminder to not take life so seriously.