Art Brut at the Middle East (Downstairs) on October 16

A Review of Art Brut at the Middle East (Downstairs) on October 16

, Staff Writer

In Art Brut’s hit single “Formed a Band” lead singer Eddie Argos warns the listener that “Yes, this is my singing voice / it’s not irony, it’s not Rock and Roll.” Turns out, after seeing their show at the Middle East (downstairs), that that’s only half true: it is in fact his singing voice, but Art Brut is most definitely Rock and Roll.

The band walked out and launched into the opening blasts of ACDC’s “Back in Black” before tearing into “Formed a Band.” This began Art Brut’s unrelenting 50 minute assault of a set which saw Argos journeying into the crowd and through the club, and later being semi-assaulted by the mosh pit near the stage. The intensity of the band was matched by the energy of the crowd, whom Argos called “The toughest crowd, in a good way, that we’ve seen.”

Art Brut’s live show is completely in keeping with their aesthetic, which can loosely be described as some combination of fun, sarcasm, earnestness, tongue-in-cheek humor, honesty, an embrace of rock and roll, and a rejection of popular culture. For example, the title track of their album Bang Bang Rock & Roll, an album largely about music, bands, and relationships, features the lyrics “No more songs about sex and drugs and rock & roll. It’s boring.” Live, Argos led the crowd in chants of “Popular culture no longer applies to me” as well as “Art Brut, Top of the Pops,” a reference to a British television show which showcases popular music acts.

The songs themselves were exceptional. Bass player Frederica Feedback provided the foundation of most of the songs while drummer Mike punished his kit from a standing position. Lead guitarist Ian Catskilkin and guitarist Jasper Future (who resembles Alex de Large of A Clockwork Orange) ripped through punk chords and guitar solos while providing hilariously sweet background vocals. Argos’ sing-speak style was rendered more intimate by the venue as well as his personal revelations about the songs.

During a break Argos told the crowd to “go out immediately after this show and form a band. Look how much fun it is!” Art Brut did make it look like fun, especially Feedback, who wore a constant smile and sang along to nearly every song. The band was all over the place on stage, inciting the crowd to clap, dance, or sing, depending on what was dictated by the moment. Each song began with Argos announcing, “This is a song about,” leading to this puzzling statement: “That was a song about going out there and doing something. This is a song about being lazy.”

The joy of watching and listening to Art Brut is found in this battle of antagonizing characteristics. Their music is ragged but still maintains perfect pop sensibilities. Their lyrics are ironic but also refreshingly honest. Their live show is one huge joke and also rocks harder than any other in recent memory. Art Brut allows you to rediscover the joy of discovering rock and roll for the first time.

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