Art Brut continues to develop its Cake-meets-Franz-Ferdinand sound in capable and fetching directions. Arch as can be, the British quintet sprang to life in the middle ’00s in the midst of a semi-movement of catchy, post-punk-inspired guitar rock (think Bloc Party, think Franz Ferdinand), but was just somehow weirder than the rest of them. And it was a weird kind of weird, as front man Eddie Argos—not a singer as much as a reciter—proved himself the master of a certain kind of post-postmodern, meta-ironic songwriting, in which his dry, concrete, and often very funny descriptions of things and circumstances themselves become tangled up in the story he tells, somehow. The band’s first single was “Formed A Band,” and the lyrics began: “Formed a band/We formed a band/Look at us/We formed a band.” And didn’t say too much more than that.
This is also an outfit that gained a bit of buzz a few years back for encouraging Art Brut “franchises”—new bands going out and being their own version of Art Brut, whatever that ended up meaning. There really weren’t any rules about the whole thing. But at one point in 2006, some 100 or so different Art Brut franchises were sprinkled around Europe and North America.
Yeah so it might be tempting to write the band off as some kind of balmy gimmick, but on the one hand they’re really too ahead of you for that: if there’s a gimmick, it’s that they flaunt the fact that they have a gimmick, which is then a different kind of gimmick, and so forth. (It’s like mirrors opposite each other, receding into infinity.) But more to the point, the music’s too good, too tightly conceived and performed. Their songs are marvelous little machines of rock’n’roll goodness, all slashing guitar lines, organic drumbeats, and quippy lyrics. “Lost Weekend” is sharp and engaging from beginning to end. And on this new album, Brilliant! Tragic!, Argos says he has actually learned to sing, thanks to producer Frank Black (or Black Francis, if you will), who taught him while they recorded the album. You can hear him test the waters here the second time through the chorus—I assume that’s his singing voice at 2:20, somewhat more tenor-y than this talk-singing voice. Worlds of new arch-opportunities open up for Art Brut moving forward.