When Art Brut released their 2005 debut Bang Bang Rock & Roll it immediately stood out from the other art-punk releases of the time (see Maximo Park, Franz Ferdinand, Futureheads, et al.). The reason for this was lead singer Eddie Argos’ undeniable wit and charm. Fast forward to 2007 and Art Brut have become big news in almost every single country apart from the UK and the other bands have released more downbeat, less fun, more ‘serious’ second records as a means of attempting to avoid the second album syndrome.
But what to Art Brut do? They ignore any pretence at being a ‘normal’ band and continue to do what served them so well in 2005: whatever the fuck they want. And again it works a treat. It’s a Bit Complicated sees the band romp through songs with Eddie Argos’ speak-singing voice at the forefront as always. But it’s not all a remake of past splendour, there are some undeniable improvements musically. It’s less ragged, less punky and it feels as if the band have grown instrumentally. All in all it feels a little less DIY and a little more professional.
Lyrically, the album is not about being in a band – been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt. It’s still about awkward moments and relationships, about compiling mixtapes, about lost love and new found love, about jealousy and ex-girlfriends. Basically things that normal people can relate to and things that one doesn’t need to be a complete and utter tosser to understand (take note Bloc Party). These are songs all about a normal twenty-something year-old blundering his way through life and coming out on the other side, battered and bruised but, remarkably, alive.
‘It’s a Bit Complicated’ has smash indie-rock hit of the summer stamped all over it. ‘St Pauli’ pays tribute to the band’s German fans with a chorus which even has Argos shouting, “Punk Rock ist nicht tort” , before apologising, “Sorry if my accent’s flawed, I learnt my German from a 7-inch record”. ‘People in Love’ sees Argos dump a girlfriend for the simple reason that people in love “lie around and get fat”. Obviously he’s too busy a man to fall in love nowadays. And he seems to enjoy this kind of pain, “What happens to the broken hearted? They get drunk for a few weeks and they’re back where they started”. ‘Nag, Nag, Nag, Nag’ sees the listener transported to Eddie Argos’ childhood and his use of music to escape the drudgery of day-to-day living. ‘Post Soothing Out’ has Argos venting his anger at the world, “Everyday is just like startin’ over, we try so hard but keep on falling over”. With a little bit of Jarvis Cocker, a little bit of Half-Man, Half-Biscuit and a whole dollop of originality, Argos’ lyrics must be one of rock music’s most quotable. My favourite from the whole album has to be this one:
“River deep and mountain high,
There’s some lyrics that’ll never apply,
‘Cause I don’t lie awake at night,
With thoughts of river depth or mountain height”
Try not to laugh at that one. He deserves some kind of comedy award for that.
While the record is less exhilarating than their debut – basically because we’re all now aware of what the band are like – it is by no means inferior. Will this record win them any new fans? Hard to answer that one, but probably not. You’ll still either love or loathe Eddie Argos’ stand-up ironic style of ‘singing’. No amount of musical fluidity will change that. I, for one, love it and hope that there’s sufficient interest in the band for Art Brut to continue writing songs about being in love, out of love or creating a mixtape. They continue to be a breath of fresh-air in a world of music polluted by big-egos and tabloid sleaze.