Art Brut : Formed A Band

This might be a chord. Now form a band...

In 1976, punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue drew a diagram for its readers. “This is a chord,” they revealed. “This is another. Now form a band.”

To [a]Art Brut[/a], five men from the lawless hinterlands of south London, it must have all looked just a bit too demanding. As a result their debut, ‘Formed A Band’, is the most brilliantly simple single of the year so far. Pretty much anyone could do this: nick a few ideas from [a]Fall[/a] and [a]Wire[/a], rev up some guitars and then get a smart-arse to rant over the top.

“Yes this is my singing voice”, says frontman Eddie Argos at one point. “It’s not irony and it’s not rock’n’roll/We’re just talking… to the kids.”

The results, though, are fantastic. There is much to distrust about [a]Art Brut[/a], not least the fact that two members of the band are called, respectively, Chris Chinchilla and Freddy Feedback. ‘Formed A Band’ was allegedly written five minutes after they became [a]Art Brut[/a], and sounds like it was chucked together in about half that time. Their entire career might barely make it to 15 minutes.

But what a great record this is: crude, sarky, instantly memorable, full of great lines. “I want to be the boy, the man, that writes the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along”, mutters Argos. Retarded art-punk as a negotiating tool for international political problems: why hasn’t anyone ever thought of it before?

By some dark miracle, the B-side (‘Bad Weekend’) is good, too, and not only because it begins, “Haven’t read the NME in so long/Don’t know what genre we belong”. I can’t decide whether [a]Art Brut[/a] are clever people pretending to be stupid who aren’t as smart as they think they are or stupid people pretending to be clever who are brighter than they realise. Not that it matters, really: this is a book about situationism. This might be a chord. Now form a band.

John Mulvey

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