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Art Brut: Immaturity Is A Virtue

Eddie Argos, the 29-year-old leader of London's Art Brut, has made a career out of not growing up. On the band's new album, Art Brut vs. Satan, he regresses a little. But that may be for the best.

In the spring of 2004, Art Brut bowled over U.K. music hipsters with a single so simple and perfect and self-contained that it was hard to imagine what the band would do for an encore. From "Formed a Band": "And, yes, this is my singing voice / It's not irony, and it's not rock 'n' roll." Only if that's Eddie Argos' singing voice, how come he's talking? Maybe it is irony. And, definitely, it's rock 'n' roll.

Although nothing on Art Brut's debut (Bang Bang Rock & Roll) topped "Formed a Band," most of it was almost as fast, fresh and funny on the subjects of music and, secondarily, love. Unfortunately, the follow-up lived up to the title It's a Bit Complicated by slowing down and putting love first.

But on album No. 3, Art Brut vs. Satan, Argos goes back to what he knows. When a song titled "The Replacements" appears, it's already the third of four consecutive tracks about rock 'n' roll itself. There are only two cuts about love, and soon enough, one of those ("What a Rush") moves on to the subject of music, too.

Argos doesn't claim to live clean. Art Brut vs. Satan begins with one called "Alcoholics Unanimous" and ends with one called "Mysterious Bruises," keyed to the wonderful line, "I fought the floor and the floor won." But there are also several songs about being young and poor — or, in the case of the one called "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake," being 28 and still eating nothing but cereal.

Notable among these songs is "The Passenger," perhaps the finest rock 'n' roll song ever written about public transportation. On its own third album, The Ramones, another basic band who seemed incapable of topping itself, hitchhiked to Rockaway Beach because the bus was too slow. Less than keen on growing up, Eddie Argos isn't in that kind of hurry.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MusicMorning EditionAll Things Considered
Robert Christgau contributes regular music reviews to All Things Considered.