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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Art Brut: Art Brut Vs. Satan


1) Alcoholics Unanimous; 2) DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake; 3) The Passenger; 4) Am I Normal?; 5) What A Rush; 6) Demons Out!; 7) Slap Dash For No Cash; 8) The Replacements; 9) Twist And Shout; 10) Summer Job; 11) Mysterious Bruises; 12*) Just Desserts; 13*) Catch.

Finally, Art Brut and their idol/admirer Frank Black get to work together. Come to think of it, it is not exactly clear why this band would need a «producer» at all — as long as they can properly plug in their instruments and get a part-time recording engineer assistant to keep the tapes rolling, this is pretty much everything that an Art Brut album requires. But, on the other hand, if we are simply talking about a chance to hang out and exchange one or two creative ideas, then perhaps it was the presence of Black Francis that freshened things up a bit.

«A bit» is the strongest measure of degree that I can mention, because, as long as Art Brut hold on to their groove, it will always hover somewhere just below the level of 'Formed A Band' and 'My Little Brother'. But intuition does cautiously suggest that the melodies may be a little more memorable, and that the lyrics may be back to the same level of sharpness that we first saw from these guys; at the very least, this time around very few songs are about relationships — boring, boring, boring! — and many more are about mocking the average representative of the consume­rist society — fun, fun, fun.

Certainly It's A Bit Complicated had nothing approaching the simplistic genius of 'The Replace­ments', a song whose riff has fewer chords than the average Ramones song but which, for some reason, I do not remember having heard on any Ramones record, and whose lyrics adequately sum up the brainset of the intellectually challenged music fan, spoilt to utter hopelessness by rea­ding one too many bad reviews: 'So many bands are just putting it on / Why can't they be the same as their songs?.. / I can't believe I've only just discovered the Replacements / Some of them are nearly as old as my parents!'

Nor did it have anything of the caliber of 'DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake' — a song that some reviewers have called the ultimate anthem of arrested development, forgetting, out of mode­sty, to mention that, with lyrics like 'DC comics and chocolate milkshake, some things will al­ways be great; DC comics and chocolate milkshake, even though I'm twenty-eight', this is really the ultimate anthem of about half of the first world's population. And finally, finally someone got the guts to come out and ask the Artist's Most Important Questions: 'How can you sleep at night when nobody likes the music we like? How am I supposed to sleep at night when no one likes the music we write? Record buying public, we hate them — this is Art Brut versus Satan!' ('Demons Out!'). So many times we heard people implying these questions in cryptic, convoluted forms; it is so refreshing that these guys at least do not beat around the bush like everyone else.

Whether the last song, 'Mysterious Bruises', deserves its seven minute length — an obviously in­tentional and provocative breach of the aesthetic norm — is debatable, given that it is essentially a repetitive account of the protagonist's unhappy party experience ('I've had one Zirtec, two Advil, with a drink that made me feel invincible'). But it did manage to supply the album's second-most quoted paraphrase: 'I fought the floor, and the floor won!' (The first-most is 'Cool your warm jets, Brian Eno!' off 'Slap Dash For No Cash').

So Art Brut Vs. Satan is hardly a kind of record one would use as a bait for new fans, but it works fine as a device to re-encourage the old ones and earn the band a couple extra critical po­ints. If these guys need to go on, and if you need to hear more of them, the album is a surefire thumbs up album; and if they do not, and if you do not, either, you should have stopped reading this a long time ago anyway.

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