Saturday, October 17, 2009

Live Review - 10/16/2009 Art Brut at The Middle East

Most art comes from poor people or rich people, with little from the middle class. This makes sense for two reasons: 1) Middle class folks, unlike the poor, have higher-percentage career opportunities (it's a lot easier to become an investment banker than a rock star), but unlike the rich, actually do have to work, leaving little time for the thousands of hours it takes to and 2) the plight of the middle-class just isn't that exciting. Art Brut is decidedly middle class: singer Eddie Argos speaks of taking the bus in "Passenger," yet he has enough spending money for "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes."

So how does Art Brut make the middle-class struggle appealing? The answer has developed over their three studio albums until the dichotomy of their latest offering, Art Brut Vs. Satan, where they've literally set themselves in opposition to The Evil One. And who is Lucifer? Big-time record labels, big time rock stars, record stores that don't have records ("I hate DVDs and computer games" Argos screamed during "Bad Weekend"), and, according to song "Demons Out!," the record-buying public itself. The good guys: Art Brut and a like-minded group of bands, playing for fun with their friends, "Slap Dash For No Cash," making no money but making records, inspiriting music, and having a good time. This challenge is cast not as "You gotta fight for your right to party," but as the eternal struggle between Good and Evil.

So what kind of show does a band that sees the world like this put on? They blast out their songs, one after the other, volume on 11. They stop singing in the middle of a song to tell you that you must go home and start a band with people who aren't at the concert. They pay homage to their idols - leading off with the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" and also inserting the Ramones and Morrissey into their songs - and tear down those on the side of evil - such as Kings of Leon. "My sex is on fire ... What the fuck does that mean?" Argos asked pointedly during "Slap Dash For No Cash," an homage to sloppy garage rock. Art Brut themselves are not quite as sloppy as they were the last time they were in town, with lead guitarists Ian Catskilkin actually busting out a few guitar solos this time, though Argos' half-talking / half-singing remains delightfully un-hip.

All of which is to say, if they come to your town, go see them. Go see them. Your ears will ring. You will wonder if what Argos does is actually singing. You you will try to decide if they are completely un-punk or the most punk band imaginable. You will see Argos stage dive and climb into the stand. You will shout "Art! Brut! Top of the Pops!" And you will dance and have a great friggin' time. And maybe when you come home, call up a couple friends and start a band. Or at least drag them to the next Art Brut show.

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