Talk about false advertising: The British-German group Art Brut named their band after the postwar movement formed by Jean Debuffet, who defined it as “works executed by those immune to artistic culture in which imitation has no role; in which their creators take from their own individuality and not from … stylish trends.” Yet the music heard on their debut album “Bang Bang Rock and Roll,” played to a sold-out Troubadour Sunday night, was nothing if not imitative — the work of people obsessed with stylish trends.
Fronted by Bournemouth native and art student Eddie Argos, most of Art Brut’s songs fall into the rich satiric tradition of mining laughs from the yob who thinks he’s sophisticated. It’s been the source of much great British music, from the Kinks and Jilted John and the wonderfully eccentric John Otway. But Art Brut’s take is toothless; Argos’ observations lack any bite. “Moving to L.A.” — a song calculated to garner radio play in Southern California — mostly pats its aud on the back for getting references to Morrissey and Axl Rose. While “My Little Brother” casts an eye on a 22-year-old who just discovered rock ‘n’ roll, Argos makes the easy observation that indie rock fans “no longer listen to A-sides,” only “bootlegs and B-sides.”
The music feels just as received in its style: a manicured amalgam of punk, glam and ’90s L.A. hair metal. The band plays it with an admirable enthusiasm, and they appeared to be having a grand time during their 45-minute set. But Argos’ faux-naif presence, his goofily off-key vocals, exaggerated working-class accent and repeated “Are you ready, Art Brut?” to kick off the songs, feel too calculated. He seems to believe that saying something in a new accent is the same thing as saying something new.