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Photo by Joe Dilworth
Put simply, Art Brut sounds like fun.
Named after the French term for ‘Raw Art’, (widely known as Outsider Art), the South Londoners belt out songs about the joys of mix tapes, new girlfriends and forming a band. Every song reflects singer Eddie Argos’ enthusiasm, as communicated in exclamation-point declarations.
“All my lyrics are completely true — and they’re all very much about me,” said Argos. “As embarrassing as that is sometimes, I’m the fellow in the song.”
On the band’s two albums, Bang Bang Rock n’ Roll and It’s a Bit Complicated, Argos talks about hoping to write songs to make Israel and Palestine get along — and about the ethics of breaking a kiss to crank up a song.
“(I wanted the lyrics to be) conversational — like a chat in the pub,” he said. “Life is funny, and when you’re having a conversation, you joke around.”
Asked about Art Brut’s link to 70s U.K. punk, when humour and stories of working class life went hand-in-hand with political statements, Argos said they aren’t trying to consciously recreate the style. Instead, he ascribes his lyrical approach to Pulp, a band known for Jarvis Cocker’s wry observations.
“I think people say we sound like The Fall because I can’t sing,” he said. “But growing up, I liked Pulp. I love storytelling, and they did that so well.”
Despite his protestations to truth, many of Argos’ over-the-top statements will make listeners crack a smile. It’s hard to take seriously Argos’ plan to write a concept album about Enrique Gatti, a character he may or may not have invented. Argos claims he read a book about Gatti, who robbed a bank in Facist Italy but only took 18,000 lira — just enough for the train fare home.
“Wikipedia said I invented him — that’s not true,” he said. “(I like him because) it was very brave of him to give up, to throw his hands up and give in.”