Thursday, May 21, 2009

Album Review: Art Brut - Art Brut Vs. Satan

Art Brut
Art Brut Vs. Satan
Rating: Satan wins.

I really, really wanted this album to be good. I absolutely adore Bang Bang Rock & Roll and like many other admirers of that album I was very disappointed by its follow-up, It's a Bit Complicated. I knew that it would be tough to capture the lightening-in-a-bottle spark of BBR&R on a second album, but Complicated came off as more stale and half-hearted than I expected it to be. I also knew that it would be tough for Art Brut to make a return-to-form third album because such a large part of their "form" was novelty, and, by definition, you can only have that once. Art Brut Vs. Satan, recorded in Portland with Black Francis, is an improvement over its immediate predecessor, but drives home that Art Brut is a one (very good) trick band.

One listen to "Alcoholics Unanimous" tells you pretty much all you need to know. It's a fine song and features a hung-over Eddie Argos demanding caffeinated beverages while explaining why he feels like shit. There's a nice little structure, some well-placed backing vocals, and an excellent use of the word "et cetera," but it just seems like the same old same old. What was it that Eddie said of songs about sex, drugs, and rock and roll years ago? Well, three albums in, he ended up being right. "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake" is also a nice, even sweet song, but if you replace the titular items with "Emily Kane," you have an almost identical and far inferior version of the BBR&R highlight. The rest of the album continues along those lines: they're all objectively good songs, but they all seem like worse versions of songs we've heard the same band play before.

Although I'm disappointed in the album, I still love the band even if they can only be enjoyed by listening to a five-year-old record and by seeing them live. I think the songs on Art Brut Vs. Satan will take on new life and be best enjoyed in concert because Art Brut is still the most fun live band on the planet, and Eddie's delivery works best when you can see his sublime ridiculousness in person. I'll report back after seeing them in a few weeks.

--Jim Powers

No comments:

eXTReMe Tracker