At home in London, punks Art Brut can’t get arrested – but it seems that Germany’s in the grip of Brutelmania
Which band are currently the hottest British act in Germany? Bloc Party? No. Kaiser Chiefs? Nope. The Rakes? Not likely. Instead, Germany’s new favourite group – against all the odds – are New Cross flop’n’roll oddballs Art Brut. Yes, the same Art Brut named after an obscure art movement, who are possessed of a slight whiff of common room in-jokery and have been one of the few bands to be dropped from the world’s indiest label, Rough Trade – for being too “childish”.
In Britain, Art Brut can walk down the street unmolested, rarely make the Top 60 and are unlikely to ever be playing anywhere bigger than Moseley Jug Of Ale anytime soon. But in Germany they’re a proper real-life band: a band with screaming fans, promotional condoms and magazines queuing up to put a picture of frontman Eddie Argos on their cover wearing bad make-up. Just look at this month’s issue of German Rolling Stone: surely the first time in the magazine’s history that it has been graced with a picture of a bloke named after a catalogue shop.
So, with a warm welcome in Germany guaranteed, Art Brut, like The Beatles before them, have opted to hotfoot it over to Europe to soak up the love, gad about and drink Jägermeister until they are thrown out of the country.
Granted, two of their number are German: bassist Freddie Feedback and drummer Mike, or Mikey from the Block as he now seems to be calling himself. In fact, tonight’s gig is in Mike’s hometown, and everyone in the club seems to be his best mate. The dressing room is filled with friends and family and he strolls around hugging every second person who walks past. Freddie and Mike’s parents have even been interviewed by the local papers in preparation for this peculiarly momentous tour. Brutelmania is sweeping Germany.
So when Eddie struts on pink shirted and shoeless while the band bash out AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’, the crowd, it’s fair to say, go mental. Against a trashy working men’s club glittery background, he shouts, “You ready, Art Brut?” and they crash into an unrelenting 45-minute set.
‘Rusted Guns Of Milan’, a punk rock number about erectile dysfunction, is the antithesis of the Buzzcocks’ ‘Orgasm Addict’, and recounts a touching tale about bedsit almost-sex and sharing a bottle of wine on Primrose Hill – perhaps one of the most indie dates ever. Eddie mock weeps as he confesses how sex scares the hell out of him, yes, even well past the age of 25. The crowd seem to have no such worries, though – a girl in tiny hot pants jumps out of the audience, falls at Eddie’s feet and screams, “Take your pants off!” She then rams her digital camera in his face before collapsing in a heap.
Grinning manically are Freddie Feedback, who gets more glam by the second (tonight he’s sporting a slinky black number and foxy boots) and guitarist Ian Catskilkin, who might look a touch like Sid Vicious, but can actually play his instrument, unlike the dead Pistol. There’s also a new shiny happy Brut among the ranks. Chris Chinchilla, the one who resembled a slightly unhinged physics teacher, has buggered off and had his sensible shoes filled in by Jasper Future, who, in pinstripe suit and neckerchief, has upped the foppish proportions of the band considerably. Tonight is only his third ever show, and despite the fact he’s not had one single rehearsal it all seems to be going rather well. “This is our new guitarist,” shouts Eddie. “He’s been demoted from The Art Goblins to Art Brut.” The Art Goblins are Eddie’s side project who are even more ramshackle. They’re a multi-member, experimental performance rock mess who shout about Britpop and cause chaos at dingy venues; a bit like Art Brut then.
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Events soon take a turn for the melancholy with the tale of everlasting love that is ‘Emily Kane’. However, things have taken a dramatic twist in the past few months; Eddie’s got himself a brand new girlfriend and poor Ms Kane has been shunned. Eddie tells us he’s found out where she lives, and frankly, he’s not interested any more. He realises what he was longing for was his teenage years, not just someone with a name that rhymed with funny things. “I don’t love her”, he wails, “I just love being 15”.
The show’s almost over, but not before Eddie displays his dire grasp of German for the crowd. “Punk rock ist nicht tot,” he hollers, his one line of their language. It means ‘punk rock is not dead’, and on the evidence of tonight’s show, it’s more than true, whatever language you say it in.