By rights, this isn’t actually a ‘Mute‘ record at all – it’s one of those EMI releases that Mute marketed, and so it doesn’t carry a Mute catalogue number. It formed part of EMI’s valuing of Mute as a vehicle for representing music from the indie underground, and it said much – to me – about the future direction of my favourite label at that time. It’s hard to listen to this rather angular slice of spiky guitar pop and find any other reference point within the Mute roster of years gone by with which to compare this, apart from maybe 13th Hour band Foil if you squint hard enough.
The Mute website proudly claimed that this single had one more ‘Nag’ than Cabaret Voltaire, which of course is totally true, but it seems like a pointless point of reference since Art Brut are the complete antithesis of the Cabs’ industrial ethic. But, criticisms aside, ‘Nag Nag Nag Nag’ is a brilliant example of why 2006/7 was a really exciting period for UK music. Art Brut specialised in acerbic, near-spoken word vocals from lead ‘singer’ Eddie Argos, dark guitar melodies and furious drumming. ‘Nag Nag Nag Nag’, whilst in its own way uplifting, is intense and relentlessly negative – ‘a record collection reduced to a mixtape‘ is just about the most dispirited thing I’d heard in a song since Joy Division, while also anchoring this into a distrust of the iTunes era.
B-side ‘I Found This Song In The Road’ continues the theme, finding Argos tapping thoughts into his phone and leaving ‘eighty messages saved and unsent‘; the ultimate act of digital cowardice perhaps, but cathartic nonetheless. Something in the delivery reminds me not just of Foil, but of Wire‘s Colin Newman, but there’s no denying that Art Brut were ploughing their own furrow back then and it was an exciting thing to hear.
First published 2006; edited 2016.
(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence