Album Review: Art Brut – Brilliant! Tragic!

By on Friday, 20th May 2011 at 2:00 pm

Album is esoteric/Basic smile route*

Art Brut is set to release their shiny new 4th album next Monday, the 23rd of May. Not to be a completely dull reviewer person, but the album is brilliant, tragic. Starting off the album in good form is ‘Clever Clever Jazz’ (a reference to Eddie Argos’ former band, the Art Goblins), a sincerely relatable song about being in a young band – playing incredibly small gigs, the nerves of it all, the disaster that those first shows always tend to be. That said, the exhilaration of it hasn’t been omitted, either.

‘Lost Weekend’ is next: by now, I’m sure you’ve all heard this single. I’ve been noticing that a few of the songs on the album almost seem like replies or sequels to earlier songs – ‘Lost Weekend’ seems an apologetic, darker take on ‘Good Weekend’ (from their 2006 debut ‘Bang Bang Rock ‘n’ Roll’. There’s a bit of growing up on this album, overall. Eddie’s voice here is raspier, less heavy handed with the exclamation points. Not to go way off topic, but you know that episode of Friends when Lisa Kudrow’s character gets a cold and finds her “sexy voice”? Now, Eddie Argos is a much better vocalist than that, certainly, but that’s what entered my mind when I heard it at first. It’s nice to see him use more parts of his voice.

‘Bad Comedian’ is delightful – a dialog outlining that eventual realization that the person you’ve once dated is seeing someone who isn’t that great and does not come up to your standard. I won’t ruin it for you entirely, but it also includes the cleverest use of a typeface as a lyric. Following that, and echoing that previous sentiment, oddly, is ‘Sexy’ – which is slower, cosmopolitan sounding, almost – Eddie’s voice here is raspy again, and the chorus here is half sung. He seems a bit unsure of himself, though – there’s a bit of vulnerability shown here.

Other reviewers have described ‘Is Dog Eared’ as the weakest track on the album. I disagree with that. Now, the lyrics are obscure at best, but there’s something that strikes me as incredibly honest about it. If you haven’t figured it out yet, ‘Is Dog Eared’ is an anagram for Eddie Argos. I’ve been rearranging all the letters in the lyrics – especially the ones that seem a bit out of place, like “I still hear”- probably an absolutely wrong thing to do and not at all what Eddie meant. It’s a puzzling one, but still very good. I’ll be analyzing, like the nosy person I am, using the Dan Didio secret message formula next. After the fairly intense middle of the album come two more lighthearted songs – ‘Martin Kemp’ and ‘Axl Rose’. I think fans of the previous Art Brut albums will like these most: they’re straightforward, anthemic and likely brilliant live. I don’t even know why I’m writing this review, as Eddie apparently already knows what I’m thinking (and all of us, apparently), according to ‘I Am the Psychic’, an Elastica-short rocker which is slowly elbowing itself up to be my favourite off the album. ‘Ice Hockey’ (titled as such because Eddie said he would like to be able to say he’d like ‘Ice Hockey’ played at his funeral – read our interview with the man here) is an oddly reassuring song about death, a topic I wouldn’t really normally associate with Art Brut.

In some ways, this album is weightier than the ones that came before. I don’t see that as a detriment. It should also be noted that Eddie sings quite well on this one. I don’t have any confirmation that is Eddie singing here, but if that’s him, he should certainly sing more often, the intonation is quite lovely actually. The acoustic guitar is nice here too, which is a bit of an Art Brut rarity; if I’m not mistaken I believe the only other track with acoustic previously was the ‘Bang Bang Rock ‘n’ Roll’ era B-side ‘Home Altars of Mexico’. Lastly and finishing off the album quite well is ‘Sealand’; it’s incredibly sweet, and features Frederica Feedback on the backing vocals. Why wasn’t she on backing vocals before? She does a fantastic job. There’s a bit of a self-reference to 2007’s ‘It’s a Bit Complicated’s ‘People in Love’ here, too…a bit of an updating of a previous sentiment.

As a whole, I found ‘Brilliant! Tragic!’ to be very good. I’m not certain where I would personally rank it with the rest of the Art Brut albums, though; in some ways, it’s very different. They really offer something with a certain depth this time around, and hopefully that will be fully appreciated by the masses.


‘Brilliant! Tragic!’ is released on Monday (23 May) on Cooking Vinyl.

(* Another anagram is ‘miserable coitus’ but I think that was fully covered on the first album.)

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