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Art Brut
Mercury Lounge
June 4, 2009

Written By Matt Boyd
Photographed by Amy Davidson





I caught Art Brut on June 4, 2009, the last date of their five-day residency at Mercury Lounge. In an air thick with the fumes of nice shampoo and fragrant soap, I pushed to the front of a crowd that could have been sweatier and less antiseptic - a crowd that could have needed this more. I settled with show-going savvy into an unoccupied spot near the stage and...was instantly rebuked for unneighborly behavior? That tap on the shoulder and the follow up from the member of the tapper’s friends list to my left meant that I had apparently committed a cardinal sin among the Devo partisans of Facebook. I hadn’t thought to check in on public opinion to make sure everyone was OK with me edging as far ahead as possible at a rock show to get the best view. I mean, no one does that without a status update first, right? You might block someone’s view. You might be at something billed as a sloppy rock show.

Eddie Argos of Art Brut Eddie Argos of Art Brut

I actually like things slap-dash for no cash. That’s why packing in for this sold-out show at one of the most squeakily clean venues in the city to worship the canned performance of yet another mid-grade musical celebrity act make me sad. I don’t need reckless abandon sanitized and sent back to me 10 years after, but there is obviously a whole thrill-starved throng of suburban twenty- to thirty-somethings who desperately do. That, or a horse-pill-sized dose of anything else vetted by the safety board and pushed to market under the brand name “Cuttin’ Loose!”™

Eddie Argos of Art Brut

Eddie Argos, the band’s lip-server to everything from dealing with a hangover to discovering great bands while dealing with a hangover, worked up a genuine sweat as he led the chants to many of Art Brut’s great songs- most notably Good Weekend off “Bang Bang Rock ‘n Roll”. The drummer played standing up. The guitarists played their guitars.

Art Brut

In the end, though, while the repetitiveness of the material on this year’s Art Brut Vs. Satan didn’t play as urgently or as convincingly live as it does on your iPod, the band did cover their own material well. The fact that they may have been tired after four nights running at the same venue possibly accounted for the phoned-in quality of the performance, even as their sweat glands were working the overtime required to get by in NYC. Even the band's cover of the Ramones’ "The KKK Took my Baby Away" had exactly the same vocal cadence as the rest of the new songs.

During that hated ritual pantomime between the end of the show and the encore when everyone pretends they don’t know whether the band is going to come back out, I was nudged by my “good neighbors” again, this time to good naturedly get me into the chant.

If the Replacements, a band referred to by one of the songs on the new album, but not performed at this show, were the Bastards of Young (unclaimed and unnamed by anyone or any war), this current generation of escapists represents people bastardized by themselves.

Phil and the Osophers

Local openers Phil and the Osophers, if you can say nothing else, are probably on more bills than any other band in the city, and they never give anything less than their full enthusiasm. They kept it up for their performance in the lead-up to the Art Brut set, which saw them joking with those who had assembled early about the silliness of opening bands thanking the audience for being there between renditions of their stripped, folk-inflected twee.

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