Art Brut @ Bowery Ballroom, NYC 4/4/06

Enter Art Brut. “Enter Sandman.” Tongue firmly in cheek, Art Brut took on Bowery Ballroom Tuesday night with a quick jam on Metallica’s rock radio staple. Within moments, they had moved into the triumphant debauchery of Bang Bang Rock And Roll lead track “Formed A Band.” And though front man Eddie Argos claims his singing voice isn’t born of irony, you better believe this opening sequence was. Tease an ode to the dark side of fantasy and cede to a celebration of the grandeur of the dream. Satirically calculated, Onion-approved.

Watching Argos nod his head to each sidesplitting syllable, arm extended to the congregation, everything about this band just clicks. As with many in the pantheon of punk legends, Art Brut’s unorthodox vocals somehow bolster each song’s musicality. Take “Emily Kane.” A sure-fire anthem built on a simple, descending major scale riff. Though taut and dynamic, sing any melody to that instrumental and — no matter the lyric — you’ve written a snooze-fest. Argos’s solution: don’t sing. Inflect. With no sappy melodies to distract, the focus is on Argos’s brilliant lyrics and the band’s charging assault. Merriment and moshing ensue.

Eddie’s backers are lethal assassins, to a tee. Drummer Mikey B leads the onslaught, with fills born of double stroke rolls and muscular tom patterns. His perfect posture behind the kit belies the reckless abandon of his playing: smashing crash-cymbals in chorus, intricate closed-hat snare patterns in verse. The outfit’s guitarists – Ian Catskilkin and Jasper Future – are a perfect art wave tandem: weaving power chords and angular guitar lines, wearing impossibly tight tops, stumbling in feigned intoxication. Unless it was true intoxication.

The crowd’s teeming energy whipped to frenzy during the mania of “Modern Art,” with a mosh pit attractive enough for Eddie to join. After a few minutes with an arm in the air and his trademark crooked grin, Argos ran back up on stage, only to exit again through the side door and parade through the balcony. “I thought that was a good one Art Brut, well done!” he said upon return. There’s just something about Eddie calling the members of his band “Art Brut.”

“Popular culture no longer applies to me!” Eddie rants in “Bad Weekend.” Maybe he was being confessional when he penned this lyric those many months back. Maybe he secretly wished it would prove as ironic as the rest of his canons. But with a show this brilliant — and punk this smart – popular culture may not merely apply to him: it may lie down and submit to his most perverted desires. And I imagine that would make for a fine Art Brut song.

Check out more of my pics at Village Indian, and download this unnecessary but not unlistenable Brutleg of “Formed A Band” mashed with the Knack:

Spoiler Boy (Feat. Art Brut) – “My Sherona [sic] Formed A Band” (MP3)