Prior to Art Brut’s Chicago performance Tuesday night at Schubas, I was completely unaware of the band’s 18-month-old existence. Having managed to create a considerable buzz for themselves at home in the UK, the band has now engaged in a showcase tour of select cities across North America in hopes of securing a US label. The heart of the band’s curious five-piece lies with front-man, Eddie Argos, who in many ways is reminiscent of British actor Steve Coogan (24 Hour Party People). Argos formed Art Brut after deciding he wanted to create a band that would not only rocket him to stardom, but also inspire fans to create and form their own bands. Ironically, it was that same mentality that helped bring about punk-rock in the late '70s and surprisingly, Art Brut’s revival of this age-old spirit is wildly successful.
Sandwiched somewhere in the middle of the room, I realized it would be impossible for me to get any closer. Standing almost completely on my tiptoes, I had a relatively clear view of the stage. The first row of fans closest to the band seemed to consist almost entirely of young women, which given the circumstances made me more than a little envious. When the house lights began to dim, each of the five colorful members entered from the back of the venue and cut through the crowd as they headed for their instruments. Attendees let out a series of cat calls and a brisk applause as Art Brut began their set.
Miraculously, this British band which is still absent of a US label, had managed to pack a Chicago show on a weekday night. The band has recently completed the recording of their debut album with the aid of producer John Fortiss. However, in the UK it was their first single, “Formed a Band”, that has won them considerable acclaim. At this point in the band’s career it may be uncertain if Art Brut’s almost humorous lyrical content is actually a joke or merely satire. Whatever the answer may be, it would seem fans are very well amused.
After their first song, Argos took a moment to play with the audience by excepting a couple of random questions. A gentleman leaning against the left wall inquired with little resolve, when he might expect the US release of Art Brut’s album, while a young-woman from the front row asked if the band would perform naked. However, lead guitarist Ian Catskilkin kept the show on track by jumping into one of the band's most appealing songs, “My Little Brother.”
The simplicity of the group’s execution is indeed inspiring and is perhaps a window into future trends in contemporary rock music. The band’s up-beat tempo and angular guitar riffs might pace them somewhere in the dance/rock genre, but Argos’s sloppy syncopated vocals differ greatly from anything currently produced. The band’s subject matter ranges from tormented heartbreak to floor stomping rock & roll anthems like “Modern Art.” In a live performance, Art Brut’s drummer, Mikey B, stands the whole time. There is a great emphasis on the quality of the live performance, and it was obvious that each member exerted maximum energy. After the band had completed their set, fans refused to allow them to exit off stage, and thus the band returned to play an excellent two-song encore. Art Brut has developed an incredible mystic surrounding their motives, but their catchy hooks and charming demeanor is certain to leave a lasting impression.