Art Brut - It's A Bit Complicated
(Monday July 2, 2007 2:29 PM
Released on 25/06/07
A social working Steven Fry lookalike fronting an amateurish band who resemble the result of an explosion in an indie club circa 1996 shouldn't really have ended up astounding the German mass market and aficionados of American blog-rock alike. But, somehow, Art Brut have pulled it off - up until now, that is. His semi-coherent mumblings might have a certain bumbling charm, but on the evidence of tricky second album "It's A Bit Complicated", Argos has yet to achieve the peerless charisma of Jarvis Cocker, or emotive drive of Morrissey.
Part of the problem with emerging as a defiant anti-hero is that success makes the sands on which you stand rather unstable. So for much of "It's A Bit Complicated", Argos narrates with a more mature, slightly jaded aspect - after all, the man who on his debut sang of the "Rusted Guns Of Milan" and yelped excitedly about getting to see girls naked twice, has not only been engaged in the past year or so, but also become something of an unlikely sex symbol. Yet this new lyrical direction is unfortunately matched by some pretty ponderous music.
It might have been spiced up with the odd touch of brass ("Late Sunday Evening") and a liberal use of "ooo ahhh oohs" throughout, but there's a distinct lack of sparkle on these 11 tracks. While "Bang, Bang, Rock & Roll" wasn't a polished album, its rough and ramshackle nature allowed some seriously brilliant pop songs through, largely because they were great ideas straining heartily against the constraints of ability. There are respectable indie hooks, but when nu-Britpop has more of those than a genocidal mackerel fishing trip, surely it's not amiss to ask for something more?
Art Brut's musical naivety has been hewn into proficiency by time on the road, but unfortunately the ideas haven't progressed to match. The feeling that without Argos, Art Brut would be a deeply unremarkable band stops being a nagging doubt and becomes a glaring fact. This is made worse by the fact that the passion that made "Bang Bang…" such a quotable album seems to be missing.
One imagines that the international indie contingent will lap this up as they did "Bang Bang…" , but in the same way as others might see warm ale and Morris dancing as examples of British eccentricity. Similarly, Art Brut's debut made much of referencing '90s Britpop, a genre that so quickly ran out of steam and ideas. Just as those bands might still seem exciting and outlandish to those abroad, to us they just seem dull - and so it is, unfortunately, with Art Brut's disappointing second album.
by Luke Turner
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