Art Brut, Rosie & The Goldbug: ABC2, Glasgow
ROSIE AND THE GOLDBUG
ABC2, Glasgow, Tue 11 Nov
On a dreary Tuesday in Glasgow, Jack Daniel's keep the booze'n'bandwagon rolling on the JD Set tour. A subdued Hugh Cornwell, decked out in a black polo neck, and as far from The Stranglers’ image as you can imagine, presides over the penultimate night of the tour, making sure tonight's favoured rock bands - Art Brut and Rosie and the Goldbug - toe the line.
Time travelling and anachronistic styles seem to be the themes of the evening, with Cornwell ditching his past excesses to join the pantheon of respectable rock statesmen. Supporters Rosie and co hark back to the forward-looking age of Modernism, with their name in a Charles Rennie Mackintosh font emblazoned on the bass drum. The appropriately stylised logo sets the tone for their theatrical, piano-led and Olive Oyl-voiced pomp-pop.
This is what eccentric bands should be doing - mining all the aspects of genre, performance, style and fabulousness to create a spectacle. 1920s-behatted frontwoman Rosie Vanier, eye-linered bassist Lee Matthews and kick-ass drummer Sarah Morgan achieve all this, and make up for the bad name foisted upon drama students by The Kooks.
Art Brut have a similar set of preconceptions of overcome, being seen by many as a cleverer than thou comedy band, the very zenith of postmodern irony-laced, anti-music. And while it is true they employ wit in their deadpan, mostly spoken lyrics, there’s a great deal more to them than that.
Hang on to your dictionaries, we’re about to go all literary on yo ass for a minute. Art Brut are the Virginia Woolf of today. Go with us here. Woolf, that paragon of Modernism managed to cut through the bullshit of society and make the subtext visible in her novel, The Waves, creating a narrative out of the true intentions behind thoughts, words and deeds. Art Brut - her Modernist successors 75 years in the future - have taken the idea to its logical conclusion. See the lyrics of Formed a Band - ‘We formed a band/We formed a band/Look at us/ We formed a band’ - which is surely the screaming subtext of any musical group with NME aspirations. It doesn’t matter what you sing about, being in a band is supposed to be the epitome of cool, whether or not you have anything musical or otherwise, to say.
So what’s the lesson here? It’s all been done before? Postmodern irony is a sham? Does it matter? The songs sound great and that’s more than enough to ask from a ‘gimmick’ band. Art Brut’s live show proves they have the guitar riffs to back up the lyrical one-liners. Lead snarker Eddie Argos employs all the techniques of rock’n’roll to lead the crowd in an orgiastic chant of ‘Art Brut Top of the Pops’, another reference that has taken on an anachronistic quality, given the demise of that TV show.
So Art Brut brought the substance, Rosie and the Goldbug brought the style and together they offered a smorgasbord of culture from the roaring 20s to 1970s punk to postmodern commentary. Or maybe that’s just copious amounts of Jack talking.