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Art Brut: “Bang Bang Rock & Roll”

by Jason Jenkins

Vocalist Eddie Argos can’t sing. His band, Art Brut, prove more tuneful, but none of this matters on “Bang Bang Rock & Roll,’ the London quintet’s fantastic debut album. Instead of singing, Argos simply raises his voice, rambling with the articulate, impulse-driven zeal of someone who planned to use cue cards but decided to wing it. Post-punk clang and retro garage melodies punctuate his semi-serious stories of childhood crushes (“I want school kids on buses singing your name!”), new romance (“I’ve seen her naked! TWICE!!”) and modern art (“Wow. There’s something amazing about that blue.”).

Bands like Franz Ferdinand, Pavement and the Mooney Suzuki trade in similar concoctions of rock and irony, but Art Brut peddle a more populist form of satire, where enthusiasm is valued and everyone is in on the joke. Art Brut turn songs that sound like banal diary entries (“My Little Brother,” “Good Weekend,” “Bad Weekend”) into razor-edged expositions that rock. On the opener, “Formed a Band,” Argos flatly states: “We’re gonna be the band that writes the song/that makes Israel and Palestine/get along.” He’s aware of how ludicrous he sounds, but hey, maybe the Middle East needs a sense of humor.