Eddie Argos, frontman for British band Art Brut, is as frenetic a storyteller as he is an accomplished drinker (his reputation suggests he’s well on his way to one day succeeding Shane MacGowan in the pantheon of infamous Brit Pop inebriants).
He carries a virtual lexicon of pop in his head that always seems to be spinning, and it offers up just the right snippet of lyrics at just the right time — time after time. He showed off his lyrical knowledge, and his fantastic musical taste, during nearly every song of the band’s headlining set at the Bluebird Theater on Friday, much to the delight of a disappointingly small but ultra-hip crowd.
Art Brut started its set with a brilliantly jerky sampling of Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner.” Argos then tacked poignant lines from the Smiths, the Replacements, the Ramones and countless others to the end of nearly every song.
The five-piece, which includes guitarists Ian Catskilkin and Jasper Future, bassist Freddy Feedback and drummer Mikey Breyer, performed a contagious, high-energy set of tunes dripping with characteristic irony, and soaked in some combined influence from punk heroes Wire and the Fall, with a tint of Pixies poison dropped in for good measure.
Argos’ stage persona, always confident and mumblingly hilarious, seemed to continuously morph. He channeled Mark E. Smith, Lester Bangs, John Lydon and Joey Ramone — sometimes all four at once — in front of the constantly wild antics of Catskilkin and Future. All of it was backed by the rhythm section formed by Feedback’s raucous bass and Breyer’s pounding drums.
There is no end to the appreciation I have for female bassists, and I have even more for drummers who have no use for a seat of any kind. Why sit and play? The rest of the band doesn’t, and any sort of leisure onstage is not what rock is about. Not for this band, anyway.
“Roadrunner” quickly slurred into one of the band’s earliest singles, “Formed a Band,” and then “My Little Brother.” (Guess what? He’s now 27!).
Argos’ streaming storytelling knows no bounds, and neither does he, as evidenced when he jumped down from the stage and dragged the microphone cord almost to the center of the theater. His mission: To fill all of us in, eye to eye, on his experience visiting the DC Comics building in Manhattan, before ripping into “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake.” It was the perfect time for Argos’ rant about how the only actor who qualifies as the REAL Batman is Christian Bale (and that Val Kilmer’s version never, ever counted).
His gift of gab shined again when the band started to play the current hit, “Alcoholics Unanimous,” with a story about what happened the night before the Bluebird show in Salt Lake City – nothing. It’s a place, Argos discovered, where it is damned difficult to get drunk.
Thank goodness we, and visiting rock stars, can get drunk in Denver with greater ease. Eddie sure seemed to appreciate it. He and his bandmates made several post-show stops in the neighborhood, making a final stop at the P.S. Lounge at 1:20 a.m.
But we digress.
At the height of “Alcoholics Unanimous,” the band traditionally stops and Argos whines about how it takes him “ages to get dressed” on typical, badly hung-over mornings. In the version he played for us, however, he changed the words slightly to reflect what (didn’t) happen the night before: “It took me absolutely no time to get dressed this morning! In fact, I had plenty of time to spare! Took a walk, had a coffee … ”
Sobriety can be hilarious.
It’ll be even more so if Denver can muster a little larger crowd for Art Brut’s next visit.
OPENER: Surfer Blood
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Jon Bielecki is a freelance photographer shooting his first assignment for Reverb. Check out his stuff at emptyreviews.com.