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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Art Brut: It's A Bit Complicated


1) Pump Up The Volume; 2) Direct Hit; 3) St. Pauli; 4) People In Love; 5) Late Sunday Evening; 6) I Will Survive; 7) Post Soothing Out; 8) Blame It On The Trains; 9) Sound Of Summer; 10) Nag Nag Nag Nag; 11) Jealous Guy.

Second time around, the exact same groove will obviously not sound as fresh. With the element of surprise and shock gone, and nothing else taking its place, It's A Bit Complicated is a bit com­plicated to adore the same way it was possible to adore Bang Bang. As clever as Argos and company show themselves to be, too much cleverness can be dangerous; and since these guys' main strength is in their lyrics rather than in their loins, I mean, riffs — once the joke starts get­ting old, they are all over and done with.

And the joke does start getting a little old. At the very least, it starts getting less obvious and in your face, meaning that I, for instance, have to strain myself somewhat to get it, and what good is an Art Brut album where it is necessary to strain oneself to get it? 'Formed a band, we formed a band!' and 'My little brother just discovered rock'n'roll!' were ready-made slogans with near-uni­versal appeal, immediately forcing you to acknowledge the band's presence. On It's A Bit Com­plicated, in contrast, nothing is ready-made, you have to cook it yourself. Thirty three minutes, high temperature, constant survey and flipping required, results not guaranteed.

Some riffs are good — the anthemic U2-ish line that drives 'Nag Nag Nag Nag', the cute love theme of 'People In Love', the brutal stomp of 'St. Pauli' — but the overall quality is certainly not enough to make this any more stupendous musically than Bang Bang. As for the lyrics, they seem way too frequently to drift into more intimate territory, focused more on the grotesque sides of personal relationships than on the absurdities of society ('Jealous Guy', 'Late Sunday Evening'), etc. — and it does not help much that they continue strictly adhering to the principle of repeating each chorus (and, sometimes, each verse) as many times as it takes to get the Gumby effect. But it is not nearly as funny when the repeated chorus sounds something like 'There's nothing that's been done that can't be undone / You were sick, now you're better, there's work to be done' or 'People in love lie around and get fat / I didn't want us to end up like that' (admittedly, the latter is funny, but lots of things in life are funny).

Overall, this is not a good sign: the lyrics are more boring, the melodies are not improving, and the groove has been carved in stone. I do not want to officially tag this as a good or bad album, because, although on the surface it is not very pleasant, the Art Brut vibe still sort of transcends the line between good and evil — like one of their role models, the Ramones, whose only album worth of sacred admiration is the first one, but who never really ever made a truly bad record be­cause you could not put down or corrupt the vibe. But perhaps it's a bit too complicated, after all.

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