Art Brut

Manchester Night & Day on Monday 3 October 2005

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It's In the City week in Manchester, which means it's time for hundreds of the music business's power brokers to get together and talk shop during the day and then, at night, go and see a shed load of bands and talk constantly throughout their sets.

One thing the conference does provide though is value for money, and Night and Day were putting on 4 acts tonight, one of which, Absent Kid, I'd already missed when I arrived.

I did catch The Hot Puppies though, and this 5 piece might just have something. Charismatic singer Becky Newman veers from Siouxsie Sioux to Sonia Aurora-Madan and they have a couple of songs with genuine hit potential making nice use of a Inspiral Carpets keyboard. Despite the name, I can also confirm that it IS safe to search for it in Google.

Apartment are more sure of themselves, swaggering confidently around stage. But their set is weaker, mimicking Interpol guitars, but occasioning switching to Ultravox or The Cult. They are not as good as they think they are.

The name of the main act is not 'Eddie Argos and Art Brut' yet, but make no mistake, this is Argos's band. From arriving on stage to his own colleagues playing the 'Back in Black' riff, to asking before the start of every song 'Are You Ready Art Brut?'; he controls every note that is played.

Opening inevitably with 'Formed a Band' a song as wide-eyed and optimistic as can be, Argos singing about writing the song that unites Israel and Palestine and is "as Universal as happy birthday" whilst self mockingly telling us "and yes, this IS my singing voice".

It's his boyish enthusiasm for British life's simple stories and pleasures that drive the set whether it be his little brother discovering rock and roll ('My Little Brother'), missing work and lying in with a hangover ('Let's Blame it On The Trains') or complaining about the weather in 'Move to LA' (which include the fabulous line "everything will be just fine, I hear the murder rate is in decline").

The round things off with 'Good Weekend' - a tale of a glorious few days of finding a new girlfriend and spending the time romping ("we wanna be, lapsed catholic"), which is the culmination of the dreams of Tops of the Pops and sexual conquest detailed in what had preceded - all light heartedly hilarious from start to finish.

It's difficult to avoid a comparison with The Fall. A dictatorial front man oozing presence and delivering his words with only a hint of a tune whilst his band thrash their guitars. It's an even more obvious comparison when 'Totally Wired' is played seconds before they hit the stage.

That was among numerous punk classics belted out before they arrived, and the punk ethos is alive and well in Art Brut. Argos tells us that he's coming back to Manchester in 3 weeks and "I'm very good with faces. I'm going to hunt you all down and ask 'are you in a band ... are YOU in a band' ...and if you're not, I'll be very disappointed." At that moment everyone was up for it ... who wants to join mine?

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article by: Jonathan Haggart

published: 04/10/2005 17:39

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