Record Review: Art Brut - Wham! Bam! Pow! Let's Rock Out!

Art Brut are back. Yeah I know, we've heard "are back" a lot. But in this case, it's true. And you can be friggin' thankful that they are - because "Wham! Bam! Pow! Let's Rock Out!" is a fantastic record. 

I've probably said it a few times and I'll say it again: Time flies. It's already been 7 years since Art Brut put our their last record "Brilliant! Tragic!" and even 13 years since their magnificent debut album "Bang Bang Rock'n'Roll". Songs like "My Little Brother" or "Emily Kane" were insanely brilliant. Back in 2005, indierock with dancable rhythms and twangy guitars was all the rage - but bands such as Maximo Park and Bloc Party don't matter as much anymore today. If you go to festivals, they will still be part of the line-up, but the headliners have changed. I'm making this observation for mass events like the Southside festival where German Hip-Hop artists such as Casper attract tens of thousands of fans while Arcade Fire draw smaller crowds than during their "Suburbs" phase. I've always been puzzled by the velocity of trends and the attention span of media and fans alike. Whereas it's normal to stumble upon "new" music, what's wrong with holding on to the bands you've come to love years ago? With that being said, Art Brut never had it easy because their style was so unique that it was difficult to move on after the debut: The second album "It's a bit complicated" was criticized by some as the same joke told a second time. I thought it was actually very good - due to songs like "Nag Nag Nag Nag" with some highly relatable lyrics (I'm learning lyrics from the CD inlay / To impress people with the stupid things I say). "Art Brut vs. Satan" and "Brilliant! Tragic!" didn't do much for me, the songs were lacking the punch and wits of the first two albums; I feared that the band's formula had become washed-up. But I gotta say that "Wham! Bam! Pow! Let's Rock Out!" is a highly enjoyable record. It really feels like a reboot - but it's more "Spider-Man: Homecoming" than "The Amazing Spider-Man," thus: a necessary one and an accurate one.

Eddie Argos, Art Brut's flamboyant frontman, now calls Berlin his hometown, has a son, and had to deal with a break-up. The band features two new members, drummer Charlie Layton (The Wedding Present) and Toby McFarlane (Graham Coxon). They replaced Jasper Future and Mikey Breyer. And you can really tell that the new album has much more lifeblood in it than its predecessors. "Hooray!" is a furious opening and deals with break-up in a funny way, as does song number two, "I Hope You're Very Happy Together". You can't help but smile when you listen to these songs. What makes this album so good is that the stories Eddie Argos tells are really compelling, filled to the brim with irony and self-mockery. Take "Hospital," a song about an actually serious topic (Eddie nearly dying from Peritonitis) in which Argos sings (or says): "They tried to make me go to rehab and I said that's probably a very good idea." It's moments like this that are scattered all across this record. And if you are German, it's super funny to hear songs like "Good Morning Berlin": I've never heard of the idiom "Kannst Du bitte die Luft aus dem Glas lassen?" (Can you please take the air out of my glass - i.e. pour a pint). Eddie Argos has always loved the German language, and this time the songs "Schwarzfahrer" and "Kultfigur" take this love to a new level.

At the same time, the music is up-beat, mixing powerpop and punk-punch and never lacks fresh euphoria. The british folk singer Jim Moray produced the album and the sound is direct and kind of raw. It's good to have Art Brut back and to witness them bouncing back from all the obstacles they've been dealing with in the past. And somewhere in there, if you listen closely, you can find a nod to the old rallying cry: Art Brut, Top of the Pops!

"Wham! Bam! Pow! Let's Rock Out!" was released via Alcopop! Records on Nov 24. Here you can watch the video for "Hospital":