Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock & Roll (2005)

It's so hard to find albums where it sounds like the band is actually having fun playing. It doesn't necessarily have to be an uplifting album full of catchy melodies and love (although that is the norm (and this album is no exception)), but bands find it easier to take their music seriously and get their songs as artfully across as p0ssible. Not to say that Art Brut isn't taking what they do seriously. They sound like they damn well are. But at the same time one can almost hear the studio party going on in between songs on this album, as each song comes to a close it seems like the energy is going full-out until it bursts into a much-needed break. Plus they kick ass.

Art Brut is a hyper-clash of lead singer and multiple personality Eddie Argos. He doesn't take personas in songs (like David Bowie) nor try to make something that has an arc to it (David Bowie again), but instead creates powerful British Punk-Metal anthems that come out as the most poetic spraypainted anthems you've heard in some time. After the success of the album it was common to find Art Brut shirts to contain lines from their songs, and rightfully so. One can pull out almost any line from a song on this album and find something very ironic, quirky, catchy, brilliant and funny all at once. Not to say that it's all great and brilliant, but it's been a while since love and heartbreak and rockin' out have had such a simple level of comprehension and quality applied to them. Muck akin to the rapper singing about getting hoes and getting paid, it's been done, what makes this band different?

At the start, "Formed a Band" plays with the notion of the band themselves. "Look at us! We Formed a Band!" Eddie Argos shouts in the opening lines of the song, which end up being not only the chorus of the song but almost the anthem of the whole album. To call his singing singing is a stretch, it's more of a hyperized banter that goes with the flow of the songs and stops and starts in the right parts, but never sounds like a melody is being constructed anywhere. And yet that is what makes it work so well. They formed a band?

A lot of the songs are inside jokes on bands themselves, about B-Sides, Rock & Roll, Velvet Underground snobs and moolah. It couldn't be more just, but it's done here that while yes, is snobbish itself, at least is original and funny. "Emily Kane" might be the saddest love song you'll ever hear, not just because it's about a girl that got away but about a girl that you're in love with in your memory of when you used to know her, that girl you always saw that you fell in love with but she really never knew who the hell you were. Every guy has one. He knows who it is.

Some of the songs work but not quite, but only in the sense that there's so much great stuff here it's pales in comparison, but it's still better than 99% of the stuff you'll hear on the radio this moment. "Rusted Gun of Milan" is a funny subtle play on often-loved masturbation theme, and "Fight" brings the physical-ness of any fight a couple has more to light, but both feel somewhat out of place on the album. Maybe they belonged near the end around one another.

"Good Weekend" captures the act of falling love for the current generation as explicitly and humorously as we needed it. It's all about that first week that you have a girlfriend and you couldn't be happier and at the top of the world. And it captures all of that in such a short song, as one loses their innocence in a typical schoolboy sense of being so excited to see that girl naked not once, but twice. Exclamation points have never been more necessary in these lyrics. "Moving to L.A." is probably the best rock star song on here, capturing the idea and ideals of rock n' roll in all of its glory and sadness.

Bang Bang Rock & Roll is an album that rarely comes along, providing fun and spirit to a much-needed genre that always needs it and yet lacks it most of the time. Rockin' out and getting girls will always be the norm, but sometimes it just has to be fun again and poetic without being gushy. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But there's nothing wrong with having it either.

Standout Track: Good Weekend
Rating: 9.3

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