Art Brut @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, 20 Feb
With a sense of barely controlled chaos throughout the night, Art Brut know how to ride the line between self-awareness and self-parody, and how to have a great time doing it
An announcement pushing doors back an hour due "transport issues" was a worrying start to the night, but the sight of Eddie Argos at the bar, nonchalantly ordering a double G&T, explaining that they'd just arrived a few minutes ago was enough to put the mind at ease. Slime City, playing "like our fourth gig ever", are perfectly shambolic openers, jazzing up their math rock stylings with songs about dial-up internet and dances about being skint.
Art Brut's Eddie Argos then lets his band get started with the longest extended instrumental moment of the night (maybe ten seconds), before climbing onstage from the crowd to rattle through a delightfully updated rendition of Formed a Band; with lines like 'We're just talking... / To the people in their mid-to-late 30s' and 'We're gonna write a song that'll make both sides of the Labour Party get along'. My Little Brother also receives the update treatment in the form of a ten minute tangent on the tribulations of putting real people's ages in songs – 'My brother's not 22, he's 37! / And he's not out of control, he's a teacher!' – before detailing other purveyors of the zeitgeisty "shouty indie music" like Sleaford Mods, Slaves and IDLES as 'Just Art Brut with socially conscious parents'.
The band are a surprisingly tight outfit throughout the night, catering to Argos' whims and keeping things moving through an array of new and old songs, though the constraints of time means the jettisoning of some newer ones. But that doesn't stop another extended tangent during Modern Art for Argos story time and getting everyone to kneel for their favourite piece before the final breakdown. Emily Kane and Good Weekend are expected highs towards the end, and Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out! proves there's still some songwriting chops in there.
There's a sense of (barely) controlled chaos throughout the night, with Argos playing the self-deprecating conductor, stand-up comedian or garage rock hero depending on the moment. It's not the smoothest of sets, but having to play a bunch of songs about the vitality and novelty of youth when you're about to turn 40 isn't the easiest task. However, Art Brut know how to ride the line between self-awareness and self-parody, and how to have a great time doing it.