Art Brut – Brilliant! Tragic! (Cooking Vinyl)

It’s been six whole years since Art Brut released their stellar debut Bang Bang Rock & Roll. In that time both the band and their fans have grown up, but whether because of defeatism or cultural obscurity, the passing has had an underwhelming impact on their music.

Contemporary British bands like The Indelicates successfully continue on their rampage against anyone billed on the NME’s Cool List, but Art Brut seem subdued. The ramshackle punch of ‘My Little Brother’ and ‘Modern Art’ are nowhere to be found on Brilliant! Tragic!, which replaces Edie Argos’ snide lip with something that – ironically – flails in the face of convention. Likewise on ‘Ice Hockey’ and opener ‘Clever Clever Jazz’ Argos’ delivery remains the same, but his conviction is sorely lacking. Perhaps he’s bored of singing about losing his girlfriend to hipster bands.

At least Art Brut have ramped up their production, putting it in the capable hands of Frank Black. Unsurprisingly, standout track ‘Lost Weekend’ recalls Pixies’ fray into the mainstream, with gruff vocals and technical instrumentation. But Art Brut have always been sincere, and the brutal honesty of ‘Lost Weekend’ steers too close to ‘Rusted Guns of Milan’ for the song to be considered progressive. Elsewhere ‘Axel Rose’ and ‘Bad Comedian’ confirm that Brilliant! Tragic! rests on its laurels, rehashing topics proven to please.

Faced with the self-destruction of The Libertines and The Strokes, there’s no longer a need for the Art Brut that sang about coy drama graduates pretending to be from Camberwell. Their contemporaries have moved on to discuss the economy, politics and even the futility of their own efforts, but Art Brut are lost in a void of their own making. So long as they continue to sing about underground gigs, reading (the same) books and being discouraged by their peers, on record they’ll never obtain the sheer adoration their live performances command. The only achievements on Brilliant! Tragic! are down to its producer, and for a man so unchallengeable, that was a given.

[Rating:2]

Release date: 23rd May 2011

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