Art Brut – Brilliant! Tragic!

written by: June 6, 2011
Art Brut Billiant!Tragic! Album Cover Release Date: May 23, 2011


The strength of Art Brut does not lie in lead singer Eddie Argos’ voice but in his jokey fuck-all attitude and lyrics. The music behind him isn’t a bastion of musical complexity either but moves pleasingly along with its uncluttered punk sound powered by solid guitar and bass riffs. Their fourth release, Brilliant! Tragic!, maintains the status quo by sticking to what the band does best, punk rock that doesn’t take itself seriously.

Pixies frontman Black Francis produced both Brilliant! Tragic! and their previous album, Art Brut Vs Satan. Both albums sound like they could have been recorded in the same studio session, so most fans of Satan will most likely enjoy Tragic! Argos maintains his signature conversational vocals, which put a clear focus on his lyrics. Fortunately those lyrics don’t suck but entertain with just the right amount of pathos and humor.

The album opens appropriately with “Clever Clever Jazz,” a statement of purpose and preemptive strike against critics. Argos delivers lyrics like, “Stop shouting, play what you know/Let us get on with the show/Clever, clever jazz man/We’re working in a genre you don’t understand,”  with aggressive sincerity. A snare accompanied by a simple bass line moves through the verse with the guitar kicking in for the chorus. It’s simple, melodic and catchy. It fits the idea of the song and succeeds by sticking to the bands style.

Song topics include matters of the heart, Axl Rose, ESP and the joys of being a sexy rock star. The guitar, bass and drums mix it up well between songs with different effects, but rarely cover Argos.

One of the high marks is “Sexy Sometimes,” with its reverbed and slightly distorted guitar. In it Argos acknowledges his tuneless voice but defends it at the same time. When he says “Everybody wants to feel sexy sometimes/I can make it happen with a voice like mine,” one can’t help but forgive his shortfall.

Unfortunately the same attitude can feel forced. “Axl Rose” rides along on a turned up bass, snares, and ragged guitar. In it Argos doesn’t bother to try to hit the right note and stays in talking mode for the most part. Unfortunately the lyrics fail to say anything clever and the song drowns in its own style. When it finally reaches its end and Argos shouts out, “Fuck you,” to the crowd you’ll want to say it back.

Brilliant! Tragic! is neither brilliant nor tragic, but that’s not the point. Argos has a deft talent for constructing songs and lyrics and succeeds despite his natural limitations. The band matches his style well with simple but catchy punk riffs. To them it probably is brilliant, which is why they’re good. If they didn’t forge their own path then they’d be just another bunch of punks.

Art Brut – Brilliant! Tragic! Tracklist:

  1. “Clever Clever Jazz”
  2. “Lost Weekend”
  3. “Bad Comedian”
  4. “Sexy Sometimes”
  5. “Is Dog Eared”
  6. “Martin Kemp Welch Five-a-Side Football Rules!”
  7. “Axl Rose”
  8. “I Am the Psychic”
  9. “Ice Hockey”
  10. “Sealand”