Some bands like to sing about lofty topics such as angels and God, death and the life pursuit, or at least the hood and the government. Not Art BrutThe modern day's answer to the Modern Lovers' Jonathan Richman, Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos is content to speak-sing about public transportation, comics, chocolate milkshakes, summer jobs, and having songs stuck in your head. However, where Richman was straight-edge and somber, Argos gleefully bookends Art Brut vs Satan with two of the most triumphant hangover songs ever recorded.
Art Brut will never be cool, and they know it. Instead of boasting about glamorous rock star parties, "Mysterious Bruises" admits "I can't remember anything I've done / I fought the floor and the floor won." "What a Rush" takes place the morning following an ill-advised conquest, captured perfectly with the lines, "I should be guilt-ridden / I'm just wondering where my clothes are hidden." The record is so full of these witty one-liners, we kind of wish our own internal monologues were so concise. These Brits are writing about what they know, and we can't help but love them for it.
"Alcoholics Unanimous," "What a Rush," "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes," and "Am I Normal?" are all written with Art Brut's special brand of candid specificity and sung with the same unabashed "look at us we've formed a band!" precociousness. In one track, Argos crows, "how have I only just discovered The Replacements?!" Where most punk bands would be afraid to admit this for fear of harming their indie cred, Argos writes an entire song about it. Best of all, it's neither penance nor a tribute - he's just hoping he's finally found a band that's as cool and honest as they seem.
Beyond Argos' screeching confessionals are some choice punk rock licks that boast Frank Black's production. But though there are no misfires, no track is really outstanding. No hook is as catchy as "Bang Bang Rock and Roll" (on their debut CD of the same title) and while Art Brut vs Satan is full of exuberance, none of it can quite match the freshman release's outburst, "I've seen her naked...TWICE!" Still, it's a solid album that keeps its heart, doesn't take itself too seriously, and remains fun to listen to.
The not-so-subtle subtext of the album, made overt on tracks such as "Demons Out," "Slap Dash for No Cash," and "The Replacements," is that unlike all the dishonest overproduced bands out there, Art Brut wears their heart on their sleeve and are not afraid to be themselves: the candidate you can trust! We know this, just as we know that sometimes the bad guys win anyway and the underdogs are once again just short of Top of the Pops. At least they've definitely won our vote - we're glad they're fighting the good fight. -Nina Mashurova