Saturday, June 30, 2007

Art Brut--It's a Bit Complicated (2007)

Artist-Art Brut
Album-It's a Bit Complicated
Release Date-Jun 19, 2007
Genre/Style-Indie Rock


Review-Reviewed by AMG. From Art Brut's first moments, they've been high-concept — after all, their debut single was about how they formed, and sounded like they recorded it immediately after getting together — so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that they've become increasingly meta, or that It's a Bit Complicated tends to feel like it's based on the concept of what Art Brut's second album should sound like. In the wake of Bang Bang Rock & Roll's success, Eddie Argos and company are no longer underdogs, so the band's sound is bigger, bolder, and more confident. There's more distance in Argos' lyrics — there are no more stories of how long it's been, to the second, since he's seen the first girl he ever loved, or how his little brother just discovered rock & roll. Instead, there are songs about songs, how moments in life relate to pop songs and several mixtapes' worth of allusions to other, more famous songs (indeed, "Sounds of Summer" is basically a love song to the time-honored tradition of making the perfect mixtape, right down to removing the cassette's recording tabs). Even for Art Brut, getting this conceptually tricky is risky, and there are tradeoffs to this approach. It's a Bit Complicated boasts some laugh-out-loud funny lyrics: "Is it so wrong to break from your kiss to turn up the pop song?" Argos asks on "Pump Up the Volume." "Post Soothing Out" is a sardonic look at the very bitter end of a relationship: "I met your parents, and I know it sounds rough/But I'm gonna be out when they pick up your stuff." However, with so much focus on the words, the album's music suffers by comparison. Most of It's a Bit Complicated focuses on the same tempos, cranked guitars, and backing vocals — think Bang Bang Rock & Roll's "Moving to L.A." turned up to 11 — making for a sound that's either focused or samey, depending on your level of patience. Fortunately, It's a Bit Complicated's risks pay off more often than not, especially on "Direct Hit," which sings the praises of dancing instead of talking when tongue-tied around a crush (though it's hard to imagine Argos or any of the characters in his songs at a loss for words) and the brilliant "People in Love," a seemingly arch take on breakups ("You can learn to enjoy this type of upset"). The band's odes to arrested development are also standouts; "I Will Survive" and "Nag Nag Nag Nag" explore the gray area between actually being a teenager, or just feeling like one years after the fact, with a little poignancy and a lot of wit. Moments like these, "Jealous Guy," and "Blame It on the Trains" reclaim some of the intimacy that Bang Bang Rock & Roll had in spades and seems to be missing from a good chunk of It's a Bit Complicated. This album may not be as special as Bang Bang Rock & Roll, but It's a Bit Complicated proves that Art Brut are masters of writing pop songs about loving pop songs passionately.

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