Art Brut - Art Brut vs. Satan
by Geoff Anstey
Art Brut vs. Satan(Downtown)
Satan has been embodied by many things in art—snakes, supermodels, Al Pacino, etc.—but Art Brut’s invocation of the Dark Lord with the record-buying public in Art Brut vs. Satan has to be a first. As pompous as the concept sounds coming from a bunch of British indie rockers, there is something strangely demonic in the rise of the Jonas Brothers or Katy Perry. And naming their third LP after an exaggerated battle between good and evil is fitting for a band aiming to prove they are more than just shtick, especially when the album is a brawler.
Art Brut is as fun-loving as ever, with just as many man-child witticisms, but there is more focus and grit on Art Brut vs. Satan than in previous works. A large part of this toning-up comes from the album’s producer, the mighty Frank Black, as the man has a magic ear for bolstering a riff. Every distorted guitar has the perfect mix of fuzz and screech that adds a kick to the already faithful punk sound; any fan of the Pixies or the Catholics will pick up on Black’s flavor pretty quickly.
Besides offering a more muscular set of songs, the album is exactly what you would expect from the band, and has all the characteristics that either charm or annoy. The great dividing line is still Eddie Argos’ vocals, which are more dramatic monologues than singing. Argos’ style separates him from the rock masses, but for most people who don’t give a damn who Mark E. Smith is, Argos’ refusal to sing is unforgivable. And even for people who like his vocals, there’s no denying that they can become repetitive. The music in Art Brut vs. Satan is surprisingly diverse, each track having a subtle yet gratifying change in mood and tone. But Argos’ vocals sound almost identical from track to track. His subject matter may set the mood for the songs, but they seldom change his delivery.
In the face of such repetition, Argos’ charm is rescued by his sly and clever songs. In a time of so many self-righteous musicians, it’s refreshing how childish Argos can be with mature issues, such as on “The Passenger,” where his love of slow, public travel has nothing to do with carbon footprints but rather with avoiding his responsibilities and “the thrill of being last.” Behind Argos’ silliness is always a sense of sincerity and wit, which makes the album rare in that you can take it seriously even when you smile and crack up at it. The band may still have some shtick to get over, but Art Brut vs. Satan is one smart and fun record. It may not have the stuff to overcome the evil of the top 40, but its charms will defiantly help sustain the faithful.
—geoff ansteyblog comments powered by Disqus
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n23 (Summer Guide: week of Thursday, June 4, 2009) > Left of the Dial > Art Brut - Art Brut vs. Satan
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds