at the Troubadour, March 19

In late 2004, Art Brut, straight outta Bournemouth, emerged not to destroy Rock once and for all but merely to cast scorn and sympathy upon its puerile pretensions. Look, they seemed to say, what you’ve wasted your life over. Sad, innit? Or is it?

Art Brut look pretty young, overall, with a motley image of no particular rock party line and a lead singer, Eddie Argos, who appears to be in that slightly older phase when the profundity of Great Rock has been more clearly revealed to be utter bullpuckey. He’s an adroitly humorous gent currently sporting a pencil-thin mustache and refreshingly plentiful early-middle-age spread, and appearing to enjoy a drinkypoo or three. His relative age and very Englishness somehow bring an authenticity and an engaging tone to the band’s target-shooting. You might’ve heard about some of their exploits via their Bang Bang Rock & Roll, with its first single’s statement of intent: “Look at us, we formed a band!”

Argos and his mates slammed and sloshed through a shrewdly sloppy punk-rock set list (you’ll notice that this band can really play, actually), including a knockout opener of the aforementioned “Formed a Band,” plus a hilariously manic “My Little Brother,” and another tune about Argos’ little brother, plus a boisterous “Bang Bang Rock & Roll” and “Moving to L.A.,” where Argos ponders doing a Mick Fleetwood and pulling up roots, though he’d likely be arrested by the Parks Department.

All this in addition to short, sharp ditties like “18,000 Lira” and “Rusted Guns of Milan” — an erectile-dysfunction missive with Argos singing, “It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you” as the band reassures “I know I can, I know I can” — found Argos clumsily climbing the light pole, or singing from deep inside the crowd, cordially cajoling and regaling us with sheer nonsense, like your mildly sauced old uncle at the family Christmas party.

The end. Fists thrust in air — another conquest, next stop Staples Center. By the way, “Formed a Band” has sold 5,000 copies so far and polled high in many a music mag, including Rolling Stone, which proclaimed Art Brut the best unsigned band in the U.K. (Update: they just got signed stateside!) They’re getting really huge in Germany. You’re saying, hell, I could’ve done that. But you didn’t, did you?

—John Payne

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