Art Brut – A Record Collection, Reduced To A Mixtape

A fan-pleasing Best Of that reaffirms their cult status...

Did Art Brut help create the current sprechgesang post-punk indie landscape? It’s tempting to weave this narrative, particularly given frontman and band leader Eddie Argos’ amusing comments in a recent interview drawing parallels between his band and Yard Act. However, a better way of looking at it is to view Art Brut as an inherently out-of-time band. Even back in their mid-noughties heyday, the zeitgeist they rode was an intensely retro one, with the London five-piece pinching their raw garage guitars and arch, whip-smart lyrics from the likes of The Fall, The Modern Lovers and all things late-70’s and achingly cool.

Does this make the current post-punk crop revivals of a revival? That’s another discussion for another time. It is, however, very much the right time to revisit the early works of Art Brut, given their aforementioned contemporary influence as well as a resurgence of interest in an era that is (disarmingly for those of us that were there) now referred to as ‘indie sleaze’.

Titled with typically self-reflexive panache, their new five-disc compilation ‘And Yes, This Is My Singing Voice!’ is a mammoth journey through the band’s first excellent two albums, as well as three discs of alternate takes, bootlegs, B-sides and live recordings. It’s only really one for fans of the band (amusingly, according to the aforementioned interview, Daniel Radcliffe apparently counts himself among these), but the uninitiated will find plenty of delights if they’re willing to dig deep into this extensive compilation.

The quality of Art Brut’s first two records has been well-documented elsewhere, so we’ll focus on the latter three discs. Among these deep cut highlights are cracking B-sides like the scathing and aggressive ‘These Animal Menswear’ as well as the touching, xylophone-backed ballad ‘Every Other Weekend’. Both are reminders that, for all of their irony and sass (Argos once got punched by Kele Okereke as a result of his big mouth); a beating heart always pumped beneath their wry observations. There’s also a lovely acoustic version of ‘Moving To L.A.’, a succession of live tracks accompanied by a horn section (the brilliant ‘Emily Kane’ sounds even more exhilarating, despite the poor recording quality) and a full live recording of a 2006 show in Paris that oozes energy and charm.

It’s not entirely brilliant (some B-sides such as ‘Don’t Blame It On The Trains’ lack invention), but generally, and impressively given the grand scale of this box set, ‘And Yes, This Is My Singing Voice!’ is a compelling journey back in time, stuffed with rough-hewn gems.

8/10

Words: Tom Morgan

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