Editors' pick

Art Brut

Rock
'

Editorial Review

Mark Jenkins reviewed an April 2006 Art Brut performance for The Washington Post:

"I can't stand the sound / of the Velvet Underground," Art Brut's Eddie Argos proclaims in the cheekiest couplet of the London quintet's cheeky theme song, "Bang Bang Rock & Roll." Actually, Art Brut could not exist without the sensibility, if not the sound, of the Velvets' college-educated garage rock. Sunday night at the Black Cat, drummer Mikey B. even played standing up, in apparent homage to the V.U.'s Maureen Tucker.

The crux of Art Brut's appeal is Argos's mocking lyrics, so at first it seemed problematic that the instruments overwhelmed the vocals. The group's founding manifesto, "Formed a Band," was a noisy blur, and only a few numbers -- notably "Emily Kane," an ode to absurdly unrequited love -- were sufficiently melodic to withstand the assault. But it quickly became clear that everyone in the packed room knew all the words (even though the band's debut album won't be released in the United States until May 23). This freed the singer for other things, and the result was engaging, amusing and -- especially by the standards of British art-rockers -- refreshingly unscripted.

Because he didn't have to sell the songs, Argos put most of his energy into asides. Sporting an earring and a way-uncool mustache, the singer admitted to realizing he's no longer in love with childhood flame Emily Kane, did a quick a cappella survey of California standards to conclude "Moving to L.A." and led a chant of "Art Brut! Top of the Pops!" that expanded to include the evening's opening acts and a number of D.C. bands, Fugazi and Nation of Ulysses among them. On its album, Art Brut may seem a bit smug, but onstage the band was playful and unexpectedly generous.