In the age of ceaseless electronic chatter, there's a score of bands whose popularity is built solely on underground hype. While you're listening to your everyday music (Rush, AC/DC, Coldplay), there's an indie-rock cabal who mocks you for not listening to virtually unknown bands who represent the vanguard (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Arctic Monkeys, Art Brut).
This cabal is made up of the same assholes who listen to AC/DC "ironically" and tell you Coldplay sucks but they loved Oasis a decade ago. Don't try arguing with the jerks, but don't ignore their music. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is really good. Arctic Monkeys, while not mind-blowing, just set the world record for fastest-selling debut album in the U.K. and will likely grow into a great band. And Art Brut is basically Franz Ferdinand with a dash of Cheap Trick and sprinkle of The Kinks.
The cabal will tell you that Brut is art-punk (or "Picasso punk" if the blogger/journalist is especially witty) and that if you don't know who filmmaker Jonathan Richmond is, you won't be able to appreciate the band on the appropriate level.
Fuck that. You can love "Tom Sawyer" and Art Brut.
Fronted by Eddie Argos-who on stage resembles your gay, French-art-loving uncle trying to replicate David Lee Roth-Brut is fun and funny, visceral and cerebral. And the underground knows it. The British band is selling out 300-seat venues on its first U.S. tour without having an album to promote (the band's debut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll is available overseas but doesn't come out here until next month).
But Argos and company don't want to be underground darlings. They want everyone to love them. Their lyrics are aimed at celebrating raw rock and mocking indie snobbery (think of Cake's "Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle"). On "Formed a Band," Argos sings: "And yes this is my singing voice/ It's not irony/ It's not rock 'n' roll/ We're just talking to the kids" and "We're going to be the band that writes the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along."
"We wrote "Formed a Band' very fast," says Argos with a timid humility. "I think it took us about five minutes. Of course, everything else took a bit longer."
That may be the case, but the whole album is meant to (and does) sound like it was created in a day and on a whim by a band that loves rock clichés but wants to destroy them. "My Little Brother" commemorates the discovery of rock music: "He no longer listens to A-sides/ He made me a tape of bootlegs and B-sides/ And every song, every single song on that tape said exactly the same thing/ Why don't our parents worry about us." The title track proclaims: "No more songs about sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll/ It's boring."
For a guy whose lyrics are overconfident and brash, Argos comes off as shy when he's off stage. He's both unassuming and dismissive about the churning hype surrounding the band.
"We do really well in Germany, and I have no idea why," he says. "You go to these different places and people know you, and you don't know why. But touring the States just feels normal. It's like a holiday where we just tour around and play. Lots of drinking and dancing and mucking about."
And here is why Brut is a band for everyone. What can be more universal than drinking and dancing and mucking about? That's all rock 'n' roll is, whether it's Art Brut or AC/DC.
Art Brut plays at The Casbah on May 2. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. $10-$12. 619-232-HELL.