Everybody Was in the French Resistance...Now! - Fixing the Charts, Volume 1
“Ohhh, that’s What's-his-name isn’t it?” exclaims my wife as I’m part way through listening to this. “Eddie Argos” I reply. “No! The one from what-are-they-called?” she says. “Art Brut?” I quietly ask. “Yes! that’s him - I’m glad to see he’s less shouty than before.” she proclaims as her gaze returns to her book. Maybe I should have let her write this whole review, but the book seems to be holding her attention for now.
Was Eddie ever really shouty? His delivery is almost always conversational. But going back to listen to the Frank Black produced Art Brut vs Satan it is apparent he is more relaxed here. He’s gone from heated debate to late night conversation. The whole vibe of the record is more restrained. This could be his Nighthawks At The Diner – it contains lot of piano-heavy material and his pairing with Dyan Valdes provides a classier feel to the proceedings.
As a rather novel concept each track is a response to other artist's songs. For example ‘Coal Digger’ squares off against Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’ - reinforcing the trajectory of the honest blue collar worker putting the graft in to achieve his dreams. ‘Superglue’ puts forward the premise that had Elastica made a solvent-based choice rather than ‘Vaseline’ then they still might be together today.
Anyone with an interest in pop culture and an appreciation of Eddie’s dry humour will enjoy all the content. It’s a concept album that actually works really well. Whilst each track can be viewed as a companion piece to the source material it stands firmly on its own – there is no need to be well versed in each track’s nuances and history, but it certainly adds to the enjoyment if you are.
Musically, ‘Billie’s Genes’ takes the Stax sound as a template. Its brass-heavy melodies pound over a funky rhythm section. It could soundtrack any of the Rocky movies; with its positive attitude and drive. Squeeze your eyes shut and images of Eddie leaping up the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps are inevitable. It’s in response to Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’, written from the perspective of the child berating the father’s promiscuous and irresponsible behaviour. It’s a short step away from a Jeremy Kyle DNA-test car-crash mid-morning nightmare.
‘G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N (You Know I've Got a)’ is pop/rock tour-de-force. Cheery handclaps and Dyan Valdes' smooth backing vocals lay out concerns for the mental wellbeing of a generation of young woman who think it’s acceptable to steal other girl’s boyfriends. Avril Lavigne is in the firing line here for suggesting such behaviour is tolerable. Keeping his manners in check he politely suggests it’s stalking. So leave it out!
This is an album that manages to pair humour and musical dexterity almost flawlessly. It’s intelligent without attempting to leverage any superiority over the listener. In the last five years Eddie Argos has proved to be one of the UK’s most interesting artists. Fixing the Charts, Volume 1 is a welcome addition to his catalogue of well thought out pop music. Here’s hoping for volume 2.
Vive la résistance!