Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: The End
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Art Brut were four albums into their career when Top of the Pops was compiled, but they had enough memorable songs to fill out a respectable selection of their definitive songs as well as rarities and B-sides. While it would be tempting to include entirety of Bang Bang Rock & Roll, the collection does an admirable job of paring that album down to just its brightest highlights, including the song that started it all, "Formed a Band," and "Emily Kane," which is still one of the most unique and yet universal songs about the one who got away. These tracks set the tone for the bolder, brassier sound of It's a Bit Complicated, which found Eddie Argos expanding his songwriting on the brilliantly self-loathing ode to arrested development, "Nag Nag Nag Nag," and the brilliantly celebratory ode to arrested development, "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes.
On “We Make Pop Music”, one of two unreleased tracks on the best-of and more compilation from meta-pop act Art Brut, Eddie Argos shout-sings the chorus: “we make pop music/ guitar based pop music/ for people who don’t like people. ” The band started out exhilarated by the mere fact of having “formed a band,” and that wide-eyed, self-deprecating, unabashed love of rock and its power to make shitty life better soaks through every inch of Top of The Pops, like a spilled whiskey and coke on the latest issue of The Flash. The expansive compilation acts as an Art Brut manifesto, the first disc picking out a handful of songs from each of the band’s four LPs, and the second comprised of B-sides, alternate takes, and covers “rescued” from the band’s “vault.
Art Brut’s avowed goal of making it to the Top of the Pops has always been thoroughly tongue-in-cheek (art brut is, after all, French for “outsider art”). It’s not that the group doesn’t have an abiding love for mega-hit bands who captured the public’s ear from the Beatles to Guns N’ Roses, because theirs is a love of “pop music” that reaches to the bone. The thing about Art Brut though is that they’re, if not quite a cult band, certainly a group whose appeal is inherently self-selective.
These days, most people only pay attention to the British Top 40 when it's been hijacked by dullards trying to prove a point-- last week it was the battlefield for a protest at the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's increasingly rose-tinted legacy. Yet it still contains a certain romantic allure among those who never stood a chance of getting in it. Art Brut's new greatest hits collection Top of the Pops (a two-disc set featuring a CD of B-sides and demos) is named after the defunct BBC TV rundown of the nation's favourite songs, an obsession of their ever-enthusiastic frontman Eddie Argos on which they never appeared.
Ready, Art Brut? Well, most of us weren’t. On releasing their debut single now ten years ago nobody quite knew what to do with them, initially throwing them in with the NME-championed New Cross Scene comprising Bloc Party and assorted artrock and scrappy indie bands of little future repute. Thing was, ‘Formed A Band’ didn’t fit in with any prevailing post-Strokes/Franz/Libertines trends, taking self-publicising to new heights of knowing irony thanks to the singular ambition and knowing declamatory style – “yes, this is my singing voice” – of Eddie Argos.