One of the recurring themes of our discussions over the past year has been intent. What were they thinking when they made this music? What did she mean? What did he want? What did they intend us to think about it? Are they serious? Are they being silly, but with serious intent? Do they even know what they’re doing, and why?
It comes up surprisingly often, perhaps a dead giveaway that we all four are music listeners rather than music makers.
No record of recent years has straddled the line between smart and stupid with such perfect, giddying poise as Art Brut’s debut album. It’s a record about being in a band and making a record which you want to express all your youthful hopes and fears and realising as you do so that wearing your heart on your sleeve is sneered at in the early 21st century and that your fellow hipsters out there might think you’re being silly and embarrassing.
And it deals with it. Brilliantly.
Whatever cheap shots you might throw at Eddie Argos and his band, from the state of his throttled singing voice, to their apparently boundless ambition to their unbridled love of people and things, they’ve already thrown their counter-punch. From the moment 50 seconds into ‘Formed A Band’ (a debut single which essentially encapsulates the band so perfectly – they could easily have split up after releasing it leaving nothing left unsaid) when Argos sneers, “And yes, this is my singing voice, it’s not irony, it’s not rock and roll, we’re just talking… to the kids” you realise they’ve thought this through much better than you and there’s no point being chippy about it.
The rest of the album is studded with in-jokes, self-reflexive digs and confessions of pure love for girls, places and even paintings. All this drilled home by an irresistible, whirling, day-glo thrash-pop without which, of course, Argos’s words would be so much pointless posturing. Every song has something, either a killer hook or a killer gag, to recommend it.
It’s fun and very funny, whilst still being clever, provocative and insightful. That’s a rare balance and those are rare priorities in these cynical times. More to the point, ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’ is a record about pure, uncontainable enthusiasm, that most unfashionable of emotions. It’s a minor miracle for a record so unbridled to deal with pretension so unpretentiously. It’s an almost impossible trick to pull off and, listening, one is forced to conclude that far from the knowing hipster outfit they might superficially seem, Art Brut must actually be very brilliant and very very smart.
Nick listened: Art Brut are a name I’m very aware of – plenty of people I know and respect the musical opinions of love them to bits – but they’re one of those groups I’ve enevr investigated for some reason; possibly, as I’ve mentioned before, because you simply can’t investigate everything you come across that sounds interesting or fun or worthwhile. There just isn’t enough time. Anyway, this was great, and I wasted no time in borrowing Rob’s copy to listen to again at home. Art Brut are disarmingly clever, witty, and fun, without ever being irritating or smug or smarmy, which is quite an achievement.
Tom Listened: Rob had lent me Bang Bang Rock & Roll on a previous occasion and I had had a couple of cursory listens prior to the meeting but I think it’s fair to say the record didn’t really grab me when I had played it in my own home. And whilst I certainly enjoyed its energy and the unusual lyrics this time around (and Formed a Band sounded great with the volume cranked up as loud as Rob thinks his neighbour can stand), I still felt there was something missing in the album that would prevent me from going back to it and exploring it further. I can’t put my finger on what it was though and I am perplexed by this fact.
Graham listened: Really didn’t know what to expect from this one, but quite possibly my favourite from the night’s offerings. Refreshing, funny, witty and clever and some great pop songs.