Monday 4 May 2009

Art Brut, Rescue Rooms

It's very quiet at the Rescue Rooms when I arrive and most of tonight’s two bands appear to be at the bar swelling the numbers. Eddie Argos is there in a Columbo style mac shaking a few hands but basically trying to keep his fan base bonding to a minimum. As some of his fans are scarier than even he is, he’s probably wise to keep his distance.

Support is from the peculiarly named Robocop Kraus and they look stereotypically German, so it’s a relief to find at that is where they hail from. Although they sing exclusively in English.

At times their music borders on eighties disco but at other times they sound like a decent post-punk indie band. Their well dressed lead singer thinks he looks and dances like Bryan Ferry. He hasn’t got the look right but yes the dancing is bad. At one point he's waving his arms around like he's trying to fly as they play a souped up version of what sounds like one of those bad euro disco numbers you hear in ski resorts. After a couple of songs he wades in to the audience. Is he trying to upstage Eddie, I’m sure that’s what he plans to do.

They’re a very accomplished outfit, not surprising since they’re certainly not youngsters and the band was formed in 1998. Musically they are actually pretty good and they go down well.

During their last song the lead singer takes the drum kit apart until just one drum is left and he carries that into the crowd with the drummer still attached to it. A rather unique finale.

Afterwards there’s a bit of a rush to the merchandising stall. This may be to buy their new CD or perhaps it because they’ve been pleading on their website for places to sleep and have urged anyone who could put them up for a night to come forward. They’ve even offered to do the vacuum cleaning and the dishes.

Half an hour later, Art Brut shuffle on stage and Eddie, looking more Stephen Fry than rock n roll, opens with the words 'Slept on my face, and woke up confused'. Yep it’s one of their many songs about drinking. New single ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ tumbles forth with Argos trying to remember the night before and sending out apologetic text messages to everyone just in case.

Suddenly it’s all gone a bit mental, I’m not sure where the crowd have come from but they’re here now, and when ‘My Little Brother’ follows, the scary fan base are down the front whirring arms and legs in all directions. I get very good at ducking as I try and take photos, I must look like a member of Robocop Krauss dancing like that.

We get a set comprising much of the faster stuff but not necessarily the best bits from the new album ‘Art Brut vs Satan’, along with all the classics from their début album ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’ but only a few off their underrated second album. If you’re a fan of Art Brut already you’ll know what to expect, if you’re not, I’d skip to the end if I was you.

The band's split with EMI last year, so it's not hard to work out who the ‘Satan’ portrayed on the new record is. After their second, dare I say it slightly commercial album, sorry Eddie, they're back to doing what they do best, taking on sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and EMI around a few meaty rifts. This time they’ve worked with Frank Black and he seems to have totally bought into the Art Brut spirit.

Eddie Argos, the band’s lead voice, singer wouldn’t be quite the right word, is there to steal the spotlight and duly does so, with his observations on life and his personal manifesto about, well anything he feels like. Such as his love for public transport on ‘The Passenger’.

As expected it only takes a few tracks before he climbs into the crowd and delivers a monologue during ‘Modern Art’ from the centre of the floor before returning to the stage, where most of his ripostes seem to be at the expense of guitarist Jeff aka Jasper Future, particularly before they launch in to ‘Rusted Guns of Milan’, his ode to his right hand.

The only down point is perhaps that the brilliant ‘Emily Kane’ was mainly inaudible as they cranked up the sound which suited rock outs such as ‘Nag Nag Nag’ much better. Then ‘Bad Weekend’ stirs the mosh pit and delivers more bad news for decent photography.

Then there’s a new song about Eddie’s love of comic books and drinking... err... milkshake, ‘even though I'm 28’ obviously entitled ‘DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake’.

Eddie becomes the first band member I’ve seen at the Rescue Rooms go to the bar for a pint during a set, taking the microphone with him and continuing the song as he goes. On the way back he chats up the crowd as well as slagging off bands who court the mainstream by imitating bands like U2 on ‘Slap Dash For No Cash’. They’re even selling 'Who wants to sound like U2?' t shirts at the merchandising stall. No risk of Art Brut ever becoming mainstream, not matter what EMI may have hoped.

'Formed a Band' is shouted for and eventually delivered as the first song of the encore despite not being set listed. The brilliant first single that they never got to play on ‘Top of the Pops’. They finish with ‘Good Weekend’ with the crowd singing along and sharing Eddie’s glee at having seen his new girlfriend naked, twice.

All great fun but of course, in the end Satan will win and U2 will always be more popular but who cares.

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