Art Brut, 'Art Brut vs. Satan' (Downtown)

Critical Mass
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by Stacey Anderson

Naysayers, prudes, and rival philosopher kings may be surprised that Eddie Argos and his crank army have lasted for three albums. But the Brit crew prove why they've survived in just seven and a half minutes on "Mysterious Bruises,"Art Brut vs. Satan's concluding track. It's at once familiar -- more yuks from a band that pairs winsomely everylad lyrics with singalong pub punk -- and startlingly vast, a "Day in the Life" magnum opus about falling down on your drunk ass, all wrapped up with an iridescent bow, capped by the transcendent refrain "I fought the floor and the floor won."

Joe Strummer surely would've chuckled at that one. The newfound grandstanding may be due to producer Black Francis, who gives the album the blithe, frayed quality of his solo efforts. The erstwhile pixies preacher takes compliant care of Art Brut's ludicrous good name -- rock-fanboy allusions and cheeky declaratives are well repped. In a world where nothing is a metaphor, singer argos still just digs "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes," "The Replacements," and records that are "Slap Dash for No Cash." And as long as he does, the band behind him will give him three chords and a wink.

The joke is the same as before. and it's a little thin at the knees. But is there a better alternative? The devil may care, but Art Brut don't.

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