You always loved Eddie Argos (QRO interview) as the frontman for Art Brut (QRO spotlight on), right from the first lyrics of "We Started a Band" (QRO video) on debut Bang Bang Rock and Roll. And you were surprised, but delighted, that the band was able to avoid one-hit wonder-dom with sophomore record It’s a Bit Complicated (QRO review), and last year’s Art Brut Vs. Satan (QRO review). So you’re willing to follow Argos into his latest side-project, Everybody Was In The French Resistance… NOW!, where he delivers sixties girl-group responses to pop songs on Fixin’ The Charts, Volume One. While definitely a side-project, and the returns diminish, it’s a neat endeavor.
Taking a page out of the playbook of Vs. Satan producer, Pixie (QRO live review), and solo artist Black Francis (QRO album review), Argos teams up with girlfriend Dyan Valdés of The Blood Arm (like Francis did with wife Violet Clark to make Grand Duchy – QRO album review). As Everybody Was In The French Resistance… NOW!, the pair made musical responses to twelve pop songs, everything from traditional to Avril Lavigne (though mostly of the sixties era), Argos’ matter-of-fact ironic vocals laid over girl-group pop stylings [note: Fixin’ The Charts is a lot better when you know this, and read the commentary to go along with each response-song]. However, opener "Creeque Allies", ostensibly a response to The Mamas & The Papas’ story of the West Coast folk scene "Creeque Alley", sees Argos telling the story of The French Resistance with some Franco-pop. But after that, Fixin’ The Charts sticks to a fairly direct response/interpretation formula.
It’s a formula that’s winning at first, but does get gimmicky. "G.I.R.L.F.R.E.N. (You Know I’ve Got A)" takes on Avril Lavigne’s "Girlfriend" and its ‘steal another girl’s boyfriend’ mentality (also belonging to many other songs by many other female pop-stars these days). But while it’s great to be taking on the ‘sk8r grl’, Argos is less convincing when going up against Simon & Garfunkel’s traditional "Scarborough Fair" ("The Scarborough Affaire"), Michael Jackson’s "Billie Jean" ("Billie’s Genes"), Bob Dylan’s "Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)" ("Think Twice (It’s Not Alright)"), or Paul Anka’s Frank Sinatra-sung "My Way" ("My Way (Is Not Always the Best Way)"). The ‘60s girl-group pop doesn’t always match with Argos’ voice, though he has evolved to the point where he actually has a singing voice (though on some pieces, such as "My Way (Is Not)", still sounds like he’s doing it all ironically…).
There is a thread running through Fixin’, as many pieces detail why you shouldn’t be with the object of a love song, like "He’s a ‘Rebel’" taking on the love of fifties bad boys in the Crystals’ "He’s a Rebel", or should be with someone else, such as "Coal Digger" speaking up for the poorer man ignored by Kanye West’s "Gold Digger". "(I’m So) Waldo P. Emerson Jones" tells the true story of said cool guy interloper from the Archies’ "Waldo P. Emerson Jones": a nerd who changed his look & his name. For the older pieces, it actually helps, the less known they are, like the Crystals or the Archies.
Penultimate "Superglue" is the only truly Art Brut-sounding piece, in that it sounds like a tribute to said office supply (this is the band who’ve done songs for DC Comics and chocolate milkshakes – QRO video), but it’s actually taking on Elastica’s "Vaseline" break-up piece. However, Eddie Argos’ vocals are unmistakable (that’s why he’s in so many side-projects, like Art Goblins – QRO photos), and if he carries the joke on too long In The French Resistance (he should have stopped… NOW!), it’s still a good joke told by a great storyteller who has become a strong singer.