The first listen-through of any of Art Brut
's three albums is best done away from public places.Â The unbecoming snorts and sniggers as more of Eddie Argos
' puns, observations and epigrams are unveiled for the first time can be a little embarrassing if, say, (taking a totally
theoretical example), you are down your local gym, with headphones on.And I'm pleased to report that this third release is no different in that respect from the hugely enjoyable first two (Bang Bang Rock 'n' Roll
in 2005, and 2007's It's A Bit Complicated
).Â Argos is surely one of the early 21st
century's best documenters of young urban British life: it is hard to think of anyone else around right now with a higher hit rate when it comes to those nails and heads.Â What becomes clear when you listen to this album carefully, though, is just how often the humour of his lyrical delivery can almost mask an actual underlying seriousness of intent.Â Art Brut
genuinely do care
about this stuff.Â So for every clever-but-throwaway couplet like "I'm in love with the girl in my comic shop / She's a girl that likes comics, she probably gets that a lot
" ('D.C. Comics and Chocolate Milkshake') or "I'm just beginning to come alive / So hand me my P45
" ('Summer Job') there is also a whole series of considered, passionate and sincere pleas - mostly regarding the art of music.The three-song sequence in the middle of the album, comprising 'Demons Out', 'Slap Dash For No Cash' and 'The Replacements' (and, arguably, although with less serious intent, extended to the next track as well, 'Twist and Shout') is where most of the State of The (Musical) Nation stuff can be found.Â When Argos sings of how he "argued all night
" about the state of chart/pop music, Â or that he is unable to sleep at night from worrying about it, you believe that this is genuinely the case.Â His subsequent exclamation that "The record buying public, we hate them!
" can, I think, be taken more as a cry of frustration than a snobbish claim of superiority.Â As he puts it on 'The Replacements' (a music-fan idealist's plea for bands to live up, in reality, to the image that they portray): "I can't help it, I'm so naÃ¯ve / Another song with my heart on my sleeve
".Â 'Slap Dash For No Cash' is a brilliant piece of U2-dissing polemic that argues the case for underproduced, non-polished rock, containing the utterly perfect couplet "They call it lo-fi / If you say so / Cool your warm jets / Brian Eno
", and listing the pleasures to be found in a record where you can hear "the crack in the singer's voice / Fingers moving on the fretboard / Every time he plays a new chord (...) His friends, hanging around
" etc.Another of the main concerns, (as on previous Art Brut releases), is a kind of clumsy unrequited / inept attempt at engagement with the opposite sex, as characterised by the teenage angst described in the touching 'Am I Normal'; 'What A Rush''s exuberant description of the aftermath of a drunken one-night stand ("I can't believe those things we did / Especially now I'm sober...ish
") and the more downbeat closing track 'Mysterious Business': another morning-after track but this time facing the regret of having overdosed on dutch courage and made a declaration.Â In the cold light of day, and having woken up "covered in bruises",
we learn that "It's not a happy ending / But it's the best that I've got
".Another thread running through these boozy antics is the refusal to grow up.Â Argos openly acknowledges that he perhaps ought to be a bit more mature / responsible these days, on the light and endearing 'D.C. Comics and Chocolate Milkshake', where he sings that "Even though I'm 28
" he's still at the stage in life when "no-one trusts you with a credit card
", but then blithely decides that "I guess I'm just developing late
".Â Similarly, on 'The Passenger', his ode to the joys of public transportation, he enjoys "avoiding life's responsibilities
" while daydreaming on the bus or train.Â Several tracks also reference his parents, as representative of "the older generation": ("I like the Beatles, you like the Stones / But those are just records that our parents own"
from 'What a Rush'; "
...his parents saying 'Turn it down'"
('Slap Dash For No Cash'); "Some of them are nearly as old as my parents",
in 'The Replacements').Â Characteristic more of a teenager, perhaps, than a man not that far from his thirties.Art Brut are one of those bands, I reckon, that either speak directly to you, or don't.Â They're kind of the musical equivalent of reading a newspaper that already fits your political viewpoint so well that you keep having to say "yes, exactly!" mid-article; but with a great stripped-down punkish musical setting and more jokes than you get with either the Guardian or
the Daily Mail.Â As Argos puts it, "If we can't change the world, let's at least get the charts right
".Â The elevation of more of his band's releases into said charts would certainly be a step in the right direction...84%Art Brut on Myspace