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Album review: Art Brut's 'Art Brut vs. Satan'

April 21, 2009 |  6:14 pm

Art_brut_240 Has there ever been a band with less use for a name-brand producer than England's Art Brut? Since they first appeared in 2004 with the instant blog hit "Formed a Band," these scrappy pub-punk goofballs have demonstrated an almost pathological aversion to expanding their sound, which basically amounts to front man Eddie Argos telling jokes in an excited (and heavily accented) sing-speak over fuzzy garage riffs. As Argos puts it in a song from the band's new album, "Art Brut vs. Satan," "Slapdash for no cash -- those are the records I like."

Nevertheless, Art Brut hired Frank Black (Black Francis of the Pixies) to produce "Art Brut vs Satan." It's a job Black appears to have performed by telling Argos and his bandmates to pick up right where they left off on 2007's misleadingly titled "It's a Bit Complicated."

Argos pulls off a handful of good lines: You can't deny the wit in "Alcoholics Unanimous," while "What a Rush" examines the aftereffects of excess with knowing precision. ("I wish I hadn't taken off all my clothes," he admits, "Now I need them -- where did they go?") Most of the riffs hit the pleasure centers they always have, as in "The Replacements," where guitarists Jasper Future and Ian Catskilkin expertly channel that Minneapolis outfit's boozy bonhomie.

Still, there's no denying that, three albums in, the winning novelty of Art Brut's tightly defined project is beginning to wear off.

-- Mikael Wood

Art Brut
"Art Brut vs. Satan"
(Downtown)
Two stars

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