Art Brut Art Brut vs. Satan

[Downtown; 2009]

Rating: 2.5 /5

Styles: art rock, punk pop, indie
Others: Roxy Music, Frank Black, Franz Ferdinand

Art Brut is more a movement than a band. Subscribing to their idealized namesake (art brut translates to "outsider art" in English), Eddie Argos and his cast of witty characters straight out of Fawlty Towers are ostensibly about being on the outside poking fun at those content to be trapped within — be that bubble pop music, fashion, art, or thought. Anything you’d ever want to know about the group is cleverly and succinctly summed up in their already classic debut hit, “Formed a Band.” Surely André Breton would be proud.

But has Art Brut, now three albums into their stay, decided that extending their pointer to the rubble of popular culture is a thing of the past? You may be led to believe so with Frank Black helming the boards throughout Art Brut vs. Satan. But when subject matter involves the enjoyment of public transportation (“The Passenger”), a love for sweet treats and comic books despite pressing 30 (“DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake”), and yet another cannonball into the gut of laissez-faire music consumers (“Demons Out!”), you’ll find it just another day in the life of Art Brut.

What Black does bring to Art Brut vs. Satan is a bit of his old edge. Much of the album consists of the post-punk wallop of Art Brut’s debut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll, though why Black was needed for this to happen has yet to be determined. Clearly the band had this in them — the formula of cheeky lyrics and fast rock melodies isn’t new to Art Brut — so perhaps the real reason behind Frank Black producing is name value and buzz. It is what Art Brut does best. All of this leads to the bigger point: Art Brut are more than just music. This is a business venture steeped in artist discovery.

There was a time when the world was crawling with Brian Enos, Bryan Ferrys, Laurie Andersons, Gary Numans, and Frank Zappas — a time when splashing some outsider art into your insider music made for a fun time -- this idea lies at the heart of Art Brut’s lyrical magic. Argos jabs and pokes because it is needed. Anyone with two good ears knows mainstream rock is rarely significanct anymore, and while current situations will never allow Art Brut to get the megaphone they desire, needling the industry from their tiny corner is a continued blessing.

But while Art Brut questions how we can sleep while allowing the “music-buying public” to rule, they can't back up the radical rally cry when Argos is just as interested in telling childish stories for pure entertainment. For Art Brut vs. Satan, the band didn’t need Frank Black to give them an edge; they needed a mentor to help them focus on their real message: changing the musical landscape. Satan may have won this round, but don’t count out Art Brut. Not just yet.

1. Alcoholics Unanimous
2. DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake
3. The Passenger
4. Am I Normal?
5. What a Rush
6. Demons Out!
7. Slap Dash for No Cash
8. The Replacements
9. Twist and Shout
10. Summer Job
11. Mysterious Bruises

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