Art Brut: An Attempt to Reach the Heights of the Past


To understand this review, you need to know a little about the backstory of Art Brut.

In 2005, the band exploded onto the scene with their spectacular debut album, ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’, which features my favourite song of all time, ‘Formed A Band’. The raw and fun nature of the album is a drawing point that even got the impressive label of Best New Music from renowned magazine Pitchfork. The album isn’t a masterpiece but the vocals and lyricism from lead singer Eddie Argos are silly and straight-to-point. They made some of the best indie rock/post-punk revival the universe has to offer.

I hold the album on such a high pedestal that it would be difficult for anything to follow it. They released the great-but-not-special ‘It’s A Bit Complicated’ and the brilliant ‘Art Brut Vs. Satan’ following their debut but they both didn’t reach the fun heights of ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’. Their fourth album, Brilliant! Tragic!’, was certainly more tragic than it was brilliant. An absolute disaster of an album that left a bad taste in my mouth. The once exciting band had lost their flair and their energy that made them one of my favourite artists.

That’s where they left me for 7 years. That was the way they ended their career for 7 years – with the most disappointing album I have ever heard.

On their return, the band’s line-up had changed. They now had recruited Stephen Gilchrist and Toby MacFarlaine – who works with no other than Graham Coxon of Blur fame on his solo work. So when I heard that they were returning from their hiatus, I was a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Would it be a return to form? Or will they let me down again?

Photo by Bertrand From France, via WikimediaCommons

The answer is neither. ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’ is good, it’s fun and it’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s not nearly as exciting as ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’. The music seems to be cut from the same cloth of ‘It’s A Bit Complicated’ but thankfully it is a return to the original fun of their first work in the vocal.

The two best songs on the album are the two singles, ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’ and ‘Hospital!’ The former is a fun song about going to a party with no care as to when or where. The guitars are great and the lyrics are entertaining. The latter is by far the best song on the album: a sarcastic comment on how we promise doctors that we are going to make the right changes to our lives and they can see through the lies but we say it anyway. The music to this track is the most entertaining of the bunch.

The highlight of the album from the tracks I hadn’t heard was the opening track ‘Hooray!’. The song is just a short track that made me aware that I wasn’t going to be disappointed. The following track is also worthy of note, a break up song, another track with ironic lyrics about how you say that you hope your ex-lover is happy with their new love but secretly you want them to be unhappy.

It’s not a perfect album, there are below-par songs as well. The song ‘Kultfigur’ is particularly poor in my opinion – an abrasive track that just doesn’t sit with me. It’s like they’ve tried to copy the aggression of a band like IDLES, who I know Argos is a fan of, but missed the mark. Art Brut have never quite mastered the angry song or aggressive song since they’ve built up a fanbase on enjoying the silly nature of their music.

The album isn’t consistently great – there are some shining lights that reassure me that Art Brut aren’t dead in the water just yet. At the same time, there are the occasional duds that shows me that they haven’t abandoned their poorer work just yet. Overall, there is a lot of fun to be had with this album. I wouldn’t recommend this album to anyone who isn’t into Art Brut already. I would recommend listening to ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’, which is definitely their magnum opus and then if you like the sound of that, try this out.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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