Sunday, November 13, 2005

Art Brut 11.11.05 Northsix, with Test Icicles. And a birthday celebration between sets!

Photo by Danakavm

by Charlotte Deaver

In Brit-speak, this was a fookin' great show. What we used to call "a riot." Art Brut was the headliner, and definitely the better band. But what Test Icicles lacked in subtlety of sound, they made up for with (lovable) adolescent insanity.

Punk rock is not what it used to be. I still love its contemporary descendents, though, like Art Brut. This band gets that we can never go back again, but that's not going to keep them from putting on a good show of it. Although Art Brut gets some flak for being too clever and arty, too cheeky and ironic, too "meta," in their live performance they were not seeking smirky distance from anything; immediacy was their aim.

Yes, their songs are limited, musically, with threadbare arrangements of well-worn chord progressions. But what makes this an original band is its lyricism, in the sense that lead singer and songwriter Eddie Argos seems to have discovered the right voice for himself. When he announced, for instance, that the next song was about being afraid of sex, you knew he meant it. He's a funny looking guy with a flopping belly and a bad haircut, not the kind of person who seems over-confident in his own skin. But the art-punk persona is not one of erotic failure, so it might be easy to think that he's being, well, cocky.

In "Formed a Band," it is true that Eddie Argos comes across as both sarcastic and sincere when he sing-speaks his wish to write a song "that makes Israel and Palestine get along," one that's "going to make sure that everybody knows that everything is going to be okay." Of course this is disingenuous, but I also can't help but fall for the sentiment. Who wouldn't want to be able to write a song as powerful as that? But, duh, who ever could?

"Formed a Band" is playing to your right. It's a perfect example of Art Brut's mix of rock, punk, play, talk, and song. Please listen, and as ever, please support the band by buying their music!

I was able to scrunch right up front and lean on the stage for both bands. Considering how crowded it was it's a mystery to me that I was able to do that so easily, especially when I left for an hour and a half in between the two sets while another band played.

For Test Icicles, the proximity to the stage enhanced the experience by strides. When a fourteen year old boy came out to test some equipment, my jaw dropped. "Are you sixteen yet?" I asked. He looked a bit offended, and responded proudly that he had just turned twenty. I laughed and said, in my best British accent, "I'm old enough to be your mum!"

Oops. He turned out to be one of the lead singers of Test Icicles. Never piss off a wanna-be-punk band. I got swiped in the head and had water splattered all over me, not necessarily due to special attention, but possibly (and you know I loved every minute of it).

This band consists of three bursting, spurting, maniacal, messy, tantrummy boys, who scream as loudly as they can and raunch out on two guitars, a keyboard, and an iPod. They really, really WANT to be angry, but don't seem to have much to be angry about. They would rant a bit about how one or the other was an asshole (how cute!), jump into the crowd occasionally, and roar into the mic ferociously, but apart from the inadvertent(?) slap on the head, they lacked the aggression they seemed to imagine they were displaying. They were just boys playing with toys. Wait. They were BRITISH boys, cute British boys, playing with toys. And how much fun is that?!!!

I met a very nice young woman who was taking pictures of the lead singer of Test Icicles for a friend. I've included some of her pictures. (Thanks, Danakavm!)

Above two photos by Danakavm

And below is a picture of the very happy birthday girl and her friends, with whom I celebrated between sets.


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