Art Brut, ‘It’s a Bit Complicated’ (Downtown)
Art Brut’s second album is a bit misleading: In keeping with the band’s knack for clever thievery from artists past, it might be better titled More Songs About Girls and Songs. Those are the only two things on singer/shouter Eddie Argos’ mind, and he’s banking — smartly, as it turns out — on their inexhaustibility as lyrical subjects.
In the Brit-rock group’s brightest moments, Argos combines his passions, backed by elemental, major-chord punk guitars and simple, propulsive rhythms. “Sound of Summer” examines that embarrassing intersection of music and romance, the mix tape. And on “Nag Nag Nag Nag,” he escapes love’s travails by way of headphones. Argos is a man obsessed and enthralled, and that devotion, coupled with exuberantly sharp rhymes, comes off as ingratiating, funny, and touching — often all at once.
Complicated shows a real grasp of musical history — strange for a band whose songs sound an awful lot alike: Track names, and these aren’t covers, include “Jealous Guy” and “I Will Survive,” and Argos even references an obscure Thee Headcoats seven-inch while trying to shape regular-joe joys and frustrations into his own pop-star mythology. But Art Brut succeed nearly all the time by injecting every minute with crackling life and by never, ever getting more than just the slightest bit complicated.