Art Brut: Art Brut Vs. Satan

Art Brut prove that they're still one of the most punk bands we've got going for us.

Art Brut

Art Brut Vs. Satan

Label: Downtown
UK Release Date: 2009-04-20
US Release Date: 2009-04-21

Art Brut Vs. Satan could have just as easily been called Bang Bang Rock and Roll III. The band is still just as capable of hanging with the punks as they are with the indie kids, Eddie Argos is still barking drunken blog posts instead of singing them, and all songs -- excepting seven-minute closer "Mysterious Bruises" -- still come in nice, manageable blocks of verse-chorus. With most bands who fall into diminishing returns like these, this is the point where we begin to grow weary, cut our losses, keep the excellent debut in our collections, and go look for someone else to worship. This won't happen with Art Brut, though, because even though any of their songs could migrate from one of their three LPs to another without any of us being the wiser, this band is still damn near impossible to dislike.

The fact that Art Brut refuse to develop or mature in any obvious way between recording sessions is sort of the whole point. As far as indie music goes these days, this band proves with Art Brut Vs. Satan that they're still one of the most punk bands that we've got going for us. Not necessarily in sound -- though cuts like opener "Alcoholics Unanimous" have more than a bit of the propulsive energy that defined the first rebellion -- but in ethos. Punk rallied against the increasing pretensions of '70s rock; Art Brut rally against the rampant preciousness and self-seriousness of modern indie. This band never seems to think the sounds that they're making with their instruments are of Profound Importance -- Argos is more interested in complaining about hangovers than attempting "poetry", and despite having the word in their name, this band has no interest in making art with a capital A. There's no posturing here: they're making genuine, simple rock music, they're "just talking to the kids", and man is that refreshing.

Just because Art Brut don't attempt a dramatic stylistic shift with this one, that doesn't necessarily mean they've has been doing nothing but getting hammered between recording sessions. While the band's earliest work did little more than create a simple (though brutally effective) punk pulpit from which Argos could shout his riotous anecdotes, with Art Brut Vs. Satan the rest of the band is, more than ever, their own entity. On the surface these songs seem to draw from the same songwriting vocabulary as those on It's a Bit Complicated, but listen a little closer and you'll notice the wandering bassline of "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake" and the complex guitar progressions of "Am I Normal?". Little flourishes like these aren't going to jump out and slap you in the face -- especially when put to the service of an aesthetic that asks to be enjoyed rather than examined -- but they're there, and they're interesting evidence of maturation in a band whose chief interest often seems to be not maturing.

But, naturally, Argos is the one who you're going to be paying the most attention to, because it's basically impossible to not pay attention to him. He's the rare drunk guy at the bar who actually is as charming and interesting as he thinks himself after eight or so beers, and he manages to make what would typically be the subject of vapid Twitter updates -- hangovers, songs that get stuck in your head, excitement over discovering an amazing band that you somehow didn't know existed (in this case, it's the Replacements) -- sound instantly relatable, engaging, and often hilarious. He can't sing (it's not irony) and he rarely even tries, but that hardly matters because, again, that's the whole point here.

That point is that Art Brut aren't much more talented than any random group of kids who got bored one afternoon, decided to start jamming in the basement, and formed a band. The crucial difference between Art Brut and everyone else, though, is that they're fully aware of this, and they thrive on it. Sure, their music won't change the world, and neither will anyone else's -- but at least Art Brut have the guts to drop all pretense and just focus on showing us a damn good time.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.