Art Brut: Brilliant! Tragic!

Art Brut team-up with Black Francis at Wavelength Studios in Salem, Oregon, and offer another batch of infectious, witty punk songs.

Art Brut

Brilliant! Tragic!

Label: Cooking Vinyl
US Release Date: 2011-05-24
UK Release Date: 2011-05-23

It's time we stop comparing Art Brut to Art Brut, and time we acknowledge the brief love affair that was Bang Bang Rock and Roll, It's a Bit Complicated's sameness, Art Brut Vs. Satan's same sameness and accept the band for what they are: ironic sort-of-punkers-but-mostly-jokesters who like to pun Axl Rose and play Pixies-infused squelch-rock -- which is exactly what they do on their new album, Brilliant! Tragic!

Of course, saying Art Brut have recorded the same album four times over in a span of eight years would be to sell the band short by three albums. It's important to remember how good Art Brut is at making rock 'n' roll that's both heartfelt and hilarious: "Emily Kane", "Passenger", "Summer Job", "People in Love", "St. Pauli" and "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes" are only a pinch of examples.

Eddie Argos is quoted saying, "If [Brilliant! Tragic!] was a TV show, you'd define it as a dramedy." He's not far off, but the band's new album's title doesn't just point to itself, it points to Art Brut as a whole. They're a band that is very much brilliant (see: "Axel Rose" or "Formed a Band"), very much tragic (see: "I am the Psychic" or "The Replacements"), and oftentimes brilliant and tragic at the same time (see back-to-back album closers: "Ice Hockey" and "Sealand").

Brilliant! Tragic!'s standout tracks are more Black Francis and less Art Brut this time around, but that's to be expected when a German/British rock band records an album in Salem, Oregon. "Bad Comedian", heavy on the delay, combines a snare-heavy Pixies drum line with a delay-heavy Pixies guitar line. Then the band turns around on the next tracks, "Sexy" and "Is Dog Eared", and do the best Clash impression since their last Clash impression. There's a reason Black Francis works with Art Brut. They're razor sharp, yet piss drunk, running from the delay pedal to the distortion pedal, Argos above the caterwaul screaming, "This world is fucked / And you're an idiot!" -- punning and respecting their forebears in the same gesture.

And with that ironic respect Art Brut present "Ice Hockey", a song that pretends to function as a turning point for the band. Argos opens the song with "Don't cry / I finally escaped / Just pretend that / I'm going into space." A Slash-parodying/envying guitar line breathes a little fire onto the near bare-bones track. For just over a minute, Art Brut escape themselves (or at least try). Eddie Argos is singing. Is this going to be their moment of transcendence? Bold moves for an already bold band?

Well, no. But yes, too. Argos slips back into what he does best and talks through the rest of the song, and the band chugs out a remarkably boring track that ends by fading into a whitewash of treble. But on the bridge, Argos sings again: "Goodbye / Don't cry." The song crescendos around him, drums and guitars swell into a gigantic wall of Black Francis sound-noise, the refrain loops, Argos talks over himself and a wave of treble swallows the band whole.

It's brilliant, it really is. Of course, Art Brut would never end an album so conventionally, so they close with "Sealand" and tell us once more they've escaped -- this time by sea instead of space. It's ironic, redundant, ridiculous, and sort of unnecessary. It's Brilliant! Tragic!, and you should give it a spin.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.