Review Summary: More so the latter
In 2005 Art Brut asked us to “Look at us! We formed a band!” Sure enough, we chanced a brief glance and took note of frontman Eddie Argos’ and his noise-merchant group. People accepted his skewed view of an ‘indie’ scene dominated by haircuts and self-importance. We even listened with patience to his ode to the hangover of unrequited teenage love in “Emily Kane” and thought “Sure. Why not? We all have stories of the one that got away.” However, people move on and grow up and there’s suspicion with Brilliant! Tragic!
that this group are yet to do the same.
In a brief interview with the NME in March of this year, 32 year old Argos stated “This time the album is more about how I think I’m psychic, songs for my funeral, the principality of Sealand and Axl Rose. Weightier topics I think. I’m also sexier now.” This is no doubt a sardonic comment on his own group’s material but there’s only so far that taking the piss can carry you.
Indeed, Argos and the rest of the group sound ever so tired on this LP. Opening track “Clever Clever Jazz” is nothing more than a retread of aimless, self-referential and altogether uninspiring lyrics. “I hope my friends will come tonight so they can see what I’m really like” he bellows gormlessly. We’re not even halfway through the first track and already an Art Brut show sounds like a punishment for a crime you are yet to commit. “Bad Comedian” finds the group dredging up tired cultural references to the negative aspects of the inexplicably feared Comic Sans font with the air of people who think they’re cleverer than everybody else because they read War & Peace when they were 15. At its most tragic, the LP presents us with “Is Dog Eared” and “Ice Hockey”, two overlong and maddening tracks that raise suspicions that their inclusions were only ever considered to bring the album over the 30 minute mark. With Frank Black behind the mixing desk this time, a man not exactly renowned for his predilection towards songs over three minutes long, it’s a surprise the two tracks in question were even granted such an opportunity.
On a more positive note, “Axl Rose” eschews the virtues of having the Guns N’ Roses man on your side in a fight (forgetting of course that Rose would turn up three hours late and then blame you for the resulting loss) and captures some of that energy that Black would have been recruited as producer to unearth. Elsewhere, “Martin Kemp Welch Five-A-Side Football Rules!”, though revisiting the theme of school yard days, is energetic and to the point.
There’s no evidence to support this notion, but you get the idea that Art Brut fancy themselves as a modern day Fall; except they are missing the idiosyncrasies and sharp perception that has raised Mark E. Smith to one of the greater songwriters of the modern age. There’s nothing to denote anything new or exciting here and more than anything, it seems like a missed opportunity.