Art Brut reached the "pinnacle" of their success when their third single, "Emily Kane", stumbled to #41 in the UK charts. It's fairly depressing, then, to realise that two albums down the line, not only have Art Brut failed to build upon this success, but they have also refused to progress as a band. The end result? Three albums of fairly pleasant, sporadically hilarious songs that have served to market them as a cult band for those that "get" them. With their newest albumÂ "Art Brut vs Satan", I was hoping to be astounded. I wanted breathtaking, what I got was power chords, more power chords, the "angular" guitars of 2005 and Eddie Argos' thoughtful and witty monotone that is entertaining on the finer songs of the album, but quickly becomes tiresome.
Possibly I'm being a bit critical... "Art Brut vs Satan" is by no means a bad album. The instrumentation throughout is constantly agreeable and well thought out, but never spectacular or overwhelmingly creative. However, possibly that's how Art Brut intended it to be, because the underwhelming, generic noises that the band makes only serve to highlight the true genius of Art Brut and possibly the only reason to buy this album; Eddie Argos' lyrics. It's quite likely that his wit and lyricism is one of the main reasons why the band was noticed on fantastic debut single "Formed A Band", when he lamented that supermarkets "only sell records that have charted/and Art Brut well/ we've only just started". Too true, Eddie, except now it's five years later and you haven't really moved on.
Personally, I think that the BRITs next year should be sound tracked by the undisputed highlight of "Art Brut vs. Satan", "Demons Out!". Eddie and the band reach "Formed A Band"-Esq heights with this possible future single, with Eddie crying out that "the record buying public/they shouldn't be voting!" and, for once, I have no qualms with him. I almost feel sorry for him when he says "how am I supposed to sleep at night/ when nobody likes the music that we write", but then I remember why... Art Brut's debut single was their finest, and it seems like they've spent the rest of their career trying to write "Formed A Band" again, with varying results that have barely been noticed. It's a crime against music that, 5 years and 3 albums on, any of the songs on "Art Brut vs Satan", whilst by no means tragic, could be b-sides to "Formed A Band". There's no ingenuity, no invention and when the calibre of albums coming out in 2009 is so high, pleasant is just not enough.
Phil Gwyn is a guest-blogger here at PMA. Read his other thoughts on music at his blog,Not Many Experts