Named after French painter Jean Dubuffet's definition of outsider art -- art by prisoners, loners, the mentally ill, and other marginalized people, and made without thought to imitation or presentation -- Art Brut make brilliantly simple, cleverly stupid art-punk.
Upon their arrival in the early 2000s, Art Brut were tagged by NME as part of the "Art Wave" scene that also included Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, but they stood out from their contemporaries thanks to frontman Eddie Argos' enthusiastic spoken-sung vocals and witty insights on pop music, pop culture, and relationships. On rawer albums like 2005's debut Bang Bang Rock & Roll, as well as more polished ones such as 2011's Brilliant! Tragic! and 2018's Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out!, Argos' one-of-a-kind viewpoint was the heart and soul of Art Brut's music.
Art Brut formed in 2003, when singer (and Top of the Pops fan) Eddie Argos met guitarist Chris Chinchilla at an afterparty in London for the band Ciccone. Guitarist Ian Catskilkin, bassist Frederica Feedback, and drummer Mikey Breyer joined soon after, completing the lineup. Art Brut's series of demos -- which they named Brutlegs -- earned the band a deal with Rough Trade, which released Formed a Band in March 2004; the single reached number 52 on the U.K. Singles Chart.
Fierce Panda picked up Art Brut for the double A-side single Modern Art/My Little Brother, which arrived in December 2004 and hit 49 on the U.K. Singles Chart. The label released the band's first full-length, Bang Bang Rock & Roll, the following May. Produced by John Fortis, the producer cleaned up the band's scrappy sound slightly and the album featured re-recorded versions of songs featured on Brutlegs. The album's next single, "Emily Kane," made it to 41 on the U.K. Singles Chart. Following an extensive tour of the U.K. and the U.S., Chinchilla left Art Brut and was replaced by Jasper Future, a member of Argos' former group the Art Goblins.
In 2006, the band moved to Mute for its U.K. label and worked with producer Dan Swift on their second album, 2007's It's a Bit Complicated. Upon its release in the U.S. that June via Downtown Records, It's a Bit Complicated reached number 14 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart and number 32 on the Independent albums chart. After touring the world in support of that album, the band went to Portland, Oregon in late 2008 to record songs with Pixies' Frank Black as producer. The sessions took just two weeks, and Art Brut's third album, the raw Art Brut vs. Satan, was released in spring 2009. The following year, Argos' side project Everybody Was in the French Resistance...Now!, which also included the Blood Arm's Dyan Valdés, released its debut Fixin' the Charts, a set of songs written in response to hits by artists including Kanye West and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas.
In 2011, Art Brut reteamed with Frank Black to work on their fourth album, Brilliant! Tragic!, which was released later that year. The band's first retrospective, Top of the Pops, appeared in 2013 and featured B-sides, demos, and rarities, including a version of the Beatles' "Her Majesty" arranged by Black. That year, Breyer and Future left the group, with Stephen Gilchrist and Toby MacFarlaine taking over on drums and guitar, respectively. However, the band didn't release any music until 2018's Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out! Produced by Jim Moray and featuring the Wedding Present's Charlie Layton on drums, Art Brut's fifth album detailed Argos' adventures during the band's hiatus, which included moving to Berlin; publishing his memoir I Formed a Band; having a child; and nearly dying of peritonitis. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi