Art Brut @ Village Underground, London 05.11.13

Cracking anti-pop from the kitchen-sink indie dramatists

Nov 5th, 2013 at Village Underground, London / By Frankie Reeves
Art Brut @ Village Underground, London 05.11.13 “Formed a band, we formed a band” shouts Art Brut’s part lout, part loser front-man Eddie Argos as the band dive into a much-demanded encore. It’s been a fair time since they did form the band, ten years to be exact, and that’s why we’re all here – to celebrate the life of one of the only post-millennium bands that have actually been making interesting, progressive and fun new music. Here at the Village Underground, Art Brut prove they’re still relevant, still exciting and still one of the best ‘new’ bands out there.

If you were one of the teens or twenty-somethings who somehow stumbled across the strange, hilarious kitchen-sink dramas of debut album Bang Bang Rock & Roll, chances are you completely loved or absolutely hated Art Brut. Either way, you could probably have bonded with anyone else who’d heard it in your mutual ‘what the hell did I just listen to’-ness. The album was unlike almost any signed release then and has been unlike any since; distant relations to post-hardcore legends Mclusky and The Streets with a nod to the comedy-punk pseudo-laments of Jilted John and the King of kitchen-sink himself Jarvis Cocker, but no more concrete comparisons spring to mind. They’ve been cracking on down that same bizarrely original road ever since, though limited promotion saw them fade into relative obscurity. Except in the eyes of this audience of course; they’ve thankfully kept that initial 2005 Art Brut spark aflame, and allow the band to fill us in on everything we may have missed since that first release.

As the band threw themselves into ‘18,000 Lira’, you couldn’t help but notice how surprisingly deep, hard and powerful the sound was. The Art Brut live sound was brilliant, actually translating the songs significantly better than their recorded counterparts. Art Brut classics followed, including ‘Bang Bang Rock n Roll’, cheekily dedicated to the late Lou Reed in connection to the damning, brilliant lyric ‘I can’t stand the sound of the Velvet Underground,’ the laddy sing-a-long ‘My Little Brother’ and awkward love song ‘Emily Kane’ (which apparently, heartwarmingly rekindled a friendship between the subject and the singer.)

Their newer tunes sounded great too, from the heavy, energetic ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ and ‘Nag Nag Nag Nag’ to ‘Direct Hit’, one of two or three songs in the Art Brut oeuvre that genuinely sounds like a mainstream hit (but sadly caused just a tiny ripple in the UK charts.) However, the real highlight of the set was a brand new song. Introduced by Eddie as ‘a new classic’, the achingly good ‘We Make Pop Music’ was Art Brut back to their absolute tell-it-like-it-is best. ‘We make pop music,’ Eddie sung/said matter-of-factly, ‘Guitar-based pop music, for people who don’t like people,’ and he couldn’t be more right.

After an extended version of ‘Modern Art’, where Eddie used the band like a toy, quieting them down to add an additional anecdote about a third gallery, because, of course, ‘When I wrote [‘Modern Art’], I’d only been to two art galleries,’ the band leave the stage, only to return for an absolutely killer encore. We were treated to the excellent ‘Formed A Band’ (‘we’re just talking to men over thirty and hipsters’ was the best line variation ever – this is, oddly, the bulk of the Art Brut audience) and the aforementioned ‘Direct Hit’. Art Brut ended on ‘Good Weekend’, which included a brief segue into Mclusky’s ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ and ended with the ‘Art Brut, Top of The Pops’ live refrain.

The relationship that the band have constructed with Top of The Pops and chart success is a cute, funny, tragic, ironic and bitter fabrication; they might never have a song that pierces the Top 20, but they don’t care really. They’ve created a body of cracking anti-pop songs over the past decade, barely catchy music for normal, unapproachable people who’ve lost faith in new music, given up on their dreams, lost themselves in the pub and the mundane, and figure if you can’t bloody laugh, what can you do? Art Brut prove tonight that they’re just as good as they ever were, they’ve remained consistently good for ten years, and they’ve got a lot of life left in ‘em. And to be honest, I can’t see much else out there of interest, so thank God for that.