It's 1992 all over again, but is Art Brut's second album more Menswear than Jarvis?
Tim Nelson 2007
Being associated with 'Britpop’s new wave' should be enough to put the fear into an aspiring indie-pop superstar: everybody wants to be Jarvis, but nobody wants to be Menswear. If Art Brut’s second album’s execution was as impressive as it is ambitious, then the band would already be single-handedly resurrecting TOTP, but it’s not as simple as that.
The good news is that singer Eddie Argos’s clever wit and knack for a well-turned phrase remains in place, not only in the opener’s 'Is it so wrong, to break from your kiss to turn up a pop song?' but also, for example, with “St Pauli”’s 'Sorry if my accent’s flawed, I learned my German from a seven-inch record'. Similarly, those who enjoyed the first album’s refreshingly original approach to pop’s eternal boy-meets-girl formula won’t be disappointed with “People in Love”, while “Sound of Summer” reveals Argos’s true obsession, with its celebration of mix-tape-as-love-letter. At other times, though, this is too much a replication of earlier work, and the old second-album conundrum is also underlined with lyrics such as: 'I don’t know what I’m doing but it’s feeling like success'.
On the previous album’s “Emily Kane”, Argos wished that school kids on the bus were singing her name, and a similar desire for fame propels this record forward. On the evidence given (and despite protestations to the contrary), it’s fair to say that the band is still too clever, ironic and yes, a bit too complicated for the kind of mass adulation they apparently wish for.
It is probably Argos’s very love for singing about pop that distances him from the easy emotional hit, but even if this doesn’t prove to be the world-beater Art Brut are hoping for, Eddie Argos and cohorts remain, in his own words, exciting and funny without being a joke.