ART BRUT – Art Brut VS. Satan (2009)

Art Brut - Art Brut VS. Satan While taking my writing capstone glass as a undergraduate, we were assigned to give a written report on a genre of our choosing, but it didn’t have to be a literary genre – it could be done on anything. One girl did hers on soap operas. Another, on prison rape scenes in films. And I did mine on postmodern music. I’m fairly certain that this was the only essay composed for the class which gave mention to John Cage, Steve Reich and Art Brut in equal measure. Why Art Brut, specifically? Well, at the time, it seemed almost necessary; when I first heard Bang Bang Rock and Roll what struck me about it more than anything else was how the band were mocking pop music by way of playing it (and this is key: playing it gloriously). Of course, perhaps that wasn’t their intention, but listening to the opening trio of Formed A Band/My Little Brother/Emily Kane, it was hard to come to any other conclusion.

I received an “A” on my essay, and a little under a year later, Art Brut would release It’s A Bit Complicated, an album with one of the most contextually perfect titles ever. And the music? Well, it seemed as though Art Brut had largely swayed away from the “pop mockery” side of things (if it ever existed in the first place – refutations welcome). That being said, the music on the album was rock solid, regardless of what mindset the band were writing/playing it from. So what does all this mean for Art Brut VS. Satan? It means that the band has an even greater chance of fading away as novelty, but damn it all if their music doesn’t get your foot tapping/head swaying – and when you’re dealing in pop, that’s 90% of the battle.

Just like It’s A Bit Complicated, the po-mo stuff is absent here (despite having songs named The Replacements and Twist and Shout); the band have stopped being a self-referential entity, and have focused on telling simple stories (sometimes interesting, sometimes cartoonishly NSFW, but always a pleasure to take in) to the backdrop of energetic garage punk. I’d now like to put forth the following query: what else could they have done? As an album, Art Brut VS. Satan not only works, but it makes sense – to deny it of its twofold success is to embark down a path of meaningless questioning: is DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes really any more or less weighty than Good Weekend or Direct Hit? And does it even matter? I think not. Po-mo musings or not, the music always comes first, and once again, Art Brut deliver.

I was going to end this post by making some broad, overarching statement about the outsider art movement from which Art Brut’s name is derived, and the broader acceptance the band is getting with each album. But I won’t. The last sentence of the previous paragraph sums things up nicely.


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