THERE'S BEEN PLENTY of talk about the "death of irony" in recent years: We're not supposed to make fun of anything anymore, or the terrorists will win. But pop music hasn't even cared about irony one way or the other for years—heart-on-sleeve sincerity is as much a put-on in rock as an affected, snotty attitude. It all amounts to a loud, clanging spectacle.
No band has made this clearer than Art Brut, who don't even share Winona Ryder's belief from Reality Bites. ("I can't really define irony, but I know it when I see it!") Art Brut can define irony, and maybe practice it, but they've made it a non-issue out of sheer will. The British band's secret weapon: exuberance.
Their music, though primitive, is wholly beyond the retro-proto- indierock of the Strokes; it's more like punk rock, except without any posturing whatsoever. Their single "Formed a Band" is patently absurd: There's no real singing, just Eddie Argos shouting, in the most acerbically English voice since Damon Albarn on Parklife, "WE FORMED A BAND! LOOK AT US! WE FORMED A BAND!" It's simple, stupid, and probably ironic. But isn't it also bizarrely honest? Isn't this what every rock band since the beginning of time has really been saying? And then Argos pulls out the line, "Yes, this is my singing voice/it's not irony."
Great. Now what are we supposed to think? Most of the tracks off of the band's debut Bang Bang Rock & Roll are, likewise, stupidly blunt enough to pass for tongue-in-cheek, and cheekily fun enough to seem utterly sincere. "Moving to LA" finds Argos "considering a move to LA." The chorus of "Modern Art" is Argos shouting, "MODERN ART! MAKES ME! WANT TO ROCK OUT!" Perhaps best of all is "Good Weekend," in which Argos gets a new girlfriend and is beside himself with glee, bursting with schoolboy enthusiasm to tell anyone who'll listen: "I've seen her naked—TWICE!"
Seriously, who "rocks out?" Art Brut does. They are just really excited. For real. Or not. Whatever.