Monday, November 14, 2005

Best Brutal Night Out

When was this . . . Wednesday night or Thursday night? Either Wednesday night or Thursday night I started out by making a monster out of a dinner roll and meeting Andrew Enke (not pictured [Andrew]).

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Here's an outtake of a blurrier but more threatening version of dinner roll monster and me.

Then I braved bitter cold and went down to the Mercury Lounge to catch Art Brut, the latest British hype-explosion to be playing their first show in New York. (their opening act, Psychic Ills, deserve mentioning as their murky rock was pretty hot.)

First off, I'm promising myself that Art Brut is the next-to-last British hype-explosion that I'm catching this year because I am getting worn out staying on top of the NME. 2005 = So Many Concerts I Nearly Died, and the year isn't even over yet.

But anyway, Art Brut was something else. At the end of this post I'll post the "review" of their show I wrote for the school paper (you don't really have to read it) that's mostly me mulling over what Art Brut's deal might be . . . because there's a "deal" to Art Brut--they might be serious, they might be a joke, or maybe it just might not matter whether they're serious or a joke.

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But one thing that can certainly be said about Art Brut is that they really rock and really know how to get a crowd worked-up. The show was bananas.

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"Are You Ready Art Brut?" That's what the band's singer, Eric Argos, would say before each song.

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It had been a while since I'd seen a stand-up drummer . . . like, maybe not since the Subsonics opened for Man or Astroman? in 1996?

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Everyone in the place had cameras and everyone in the place was taking all the pictures they could and that resulted in blurry multi-flash photos like this one. But Brooklyn Vegan has some quality pictures up you should check out (what's so quality about them? You can see me in several of them, that's what.) Click!

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Sometimes I give in and turn on my flash.

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Okay, here's my messy article from the Commentator. If you have a really boring job, or really want to think about Art Brut, read it . . .

When Art Brut took the stage late last Thursday night at the Mercury Lounge, their guitarist started the night out with the familiar opening chords of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” before the band launched into their first song, “We Formed a Band.” Now, the question that crossed my mind when I heard “Back in Black” is a question which encapsulates the entire Art Brut experience: Is this band (“this band” being yet another British hype-bomb making one of it’s first ever US appearances after accumulating massive amounts of attention at home in the UK and having been written-up in every self-respecting cutting-edge-of-cool music blog from Stereogum to Brooklyn Vegan) serious? Is the band playing “Back in Black” with their tongues in cheek, intending for the crowd of Lower East Side amassed at the Mercury Lounge that night to wink right back at them—or is Art Brut starting off with a little “Back in Black” because those are, quite frankly, some of rock n roll’s most potent opening chords?

Art Brut (a five-piece outfit consisting of a lead singer who dresses and behaves like a cross between Jack White, Oscar Wilde, Snidely Whiplash, and a washed-up Vegas lounge singer; a guitarist who resembles Sid Vicious at a healthy weight; a second guitarist right along the lines of the skinny British rockers that inspire the works of painter Elizabeth Peyton; an unenthusiastic but robotically consistent drummer who plays standing up; and a maroon-haired female bassist) is a band who’s every move and every song suggests that they could be motivated by an agenda to subvert the norms of what we expect from cool rock n roll—or maybe they’re sincere, but self-aware, and their so-simple-that-maybe-they’re-jokes sort of rock songs are really direct representations of exactly what Art Brut wants to be rocking out about.

What am I talking about? Let me try to explain . . .

One of the stand out tracks from their debut album, “Bang Bang Rock n Roll,” is a song called “Modern Art,” a driven anthem where verses in which the lead singer, Eddie Argos, narrates situations in which he has been overcome by certain pieces of modern art in certain galleries throughout Europe in pretty much his speaking voice are traded off against shout-along inspiring chorus of “Modern Art! Makes Me! Want To Rock Out!” (It should be noted that, in general, all Art Brut songs can consist of nearly-spoken narratives by Argos trading off against shout-along choruses) But the question is, does modern art really make Argos want to rock out? Or is this a joke of a song playing with the notion of the contemporary art scene as forum for rock star and rock show behavior and attitude?

I just don’t know, but I’m leaning towards thinking the band is sincere, yet calculating—which is certainly refreshing in this world where rock can only be sincere (consider Bloc Party, for example) or calculated (the Darkness) but never both. Art Brut isn’t afraid to infuse their music with a sense of humor, but that doesn’t mean they intend to be taken as a joke. While the seriousness of their seemingly silly songs is almost completely lost in recorded form, watching Art Brut live reveals that Argos is certainly emotionally caught up in songs like “Good Weekend” (a meditation on the elation which comes with finding oneself in a new romantic relationship) or “Rusted Guns of Milan” (a darkly-comic remembrance of romantic shortcomings which seemed to have Argos near tears by its end).

The fact that I’ve written about six-hundred words so far about the possible motivations of this band (without even touching on the fact that “art brut” is the French term for “outsider art” and all that that could imply) instead of the fact that they put on an absolutely great, high-energy show last week might be the ultimate testament to the internal conflict Art Brut can inspire in those inclined to over analyze things (that would be us, my fellow students of the law). So, if you can, try listening to “Bang Bang Rock n Roll” or catching an Art Brut show with your brain turned off, and you’ll like it just fine.

P.S. 19 years ago today I finally got a brother. That was a great day. Happy Birthday, Owen.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Brig.

Cindy said...

Happy Birthday Owen!

Brigham, don't you have any pictures of Marsha and Jared?