The Live Artex
10 Track, LP (2007, Timberyard)
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Related: Damn Arms.
On ‘The Not So Progressive Punks’, the second track of The Live Artex, Damn Arms indulge in a little scenester baiting. Over a discordant mess of guitar and synth, Tim Sullivan howls derisively that “individuality isn’t what’s right for the kids’, and yet the vitriol may well be pure aesthetic. Otherwise it’s a particularly brave, perhaps brash statement considering that this, their debut album, places the Melbourne four-piece in a precarious position: caught somewhere between punk rock and a commerce-driven about face.
It would be harsh, however, to instantly dismiss The Live Artex as the next in a line of rock-as-fashion accessories even if Nick Littlemore’s production adds a fluorescent sheen not really apparent on the impressive Patterns EP of 2005. Confusingly, it wasn’t until subsequent relocation to the UK that Damn Arms came to be paraded as some sort of forerunner to the new-rave movement, which was all too confusing in itself. But now, well, this is the sound of a band scurrying desperately to fill the reputation that has preceded them.
That might sound like damning criticism but, in truth, it’s only a slight. This music – this fashionable music – is of the moment but then Damn Arms more than get by on nihilistic bravado. There’s no need to look for deeper meaning; the songs here are catchy and edgy, Sullivan and Yama Indra’s traded vocals compensate for any lyrical vacuity. The band has moved (progressed is probably not the best word) beyond the sinister dance-punk of earlier recordings and onto more accessible textures.
Opener ‘Edie’ can safely be described as stadium-rock in a club setting, ‘Thirty Six’ a vocodered homage to Midnight Juggernauts, and whilst tracks like ‘Wooden Leg, Evil Claw’ and ‘Home Wrecker’ veer closer to their thunderous past, it is with more attention to melody. Prejudices aside, The Live Artex aims to please – perhaps too readily and in variety there is a distinct lack of identity. This they chant so fittingly/unwittingly on the rhythmic ‘Forte’: “Now we are normal, now we are outraged, now we’re romantic… just like the movies”. If the product’s right, you can’t really begrudge a band for moving with the times, and if it results in more bodies moving to the dance-floor, hell, we’re all faceless in the crowd anyway.
by Carl Dixon