album reviews

Art Brut
Brilliant! Tragic!
Cooking Vinyl/The End Records (2011)

Kindred spirits: the Fall, Gang of Four, the Ex.

Art Brut might have peaked early. The South London band's 2005 debut album, "Bang Bang Rock & Roll", opened with a career-defining song, the jubilant "Formed a Band", which revealed the group's joyful approach to making music and showcased vocalist Eddie Argos's yelping rants.

The band has captured most of that same magic on its subsequent albums, including "Brilliant! Tragic!", its newest. Argos again touches on his familiar subjects of making music ("Clever Clever Jazz") and schoolboy crushes ("Martin Kemp"), his ever-energetic tirades as enthralling as ever.

Still, there are moments when Art Brut's energy lags. Argos's vocals turn into a sing-song whisper on "Lost Weekend", and even as the band squeals and shakes behind him, his sighs remain unconvincing ("I'm sorry if I embarrassed you / By saying something stupid like 'I love you' "). And when the band mellows out as well — as on the soporific "Ice Hockey" — it abandons the euphoria that was always its trademark.

If nothing else, though, those quieter moments make the classic Art Brut art-punk tunes all the more triumphant by comparison. Argos's fieriest moment, the irreverent "Axel Rose", shows the frontman at his finest — ardent, intense and totally unstoppable.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 17 June 2011
.: Brilliant! Tragic! on