Witty rockers Art Brut return with a fresh batch of songs about drinking, reading comic books, and facing off against Satan. Following the band’s split with EMI last year, it’s not hard to figure out who the titular Dark Prince is, but the album as a whole doesn’t get bogged down with music business politics.
One song – Demons Out! – chronicles the band’s past label troubles. Singer Eddie Argos doesn’t sidestep the issue, calling out to record executives: “How can you sleep at night when nobody likes the music we like?” He is sometimes earnest, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, constructing a three-way fight between the band, the label, and the audience like a romantic relationship gone awry – “Record buying public, we hate them / This is Art Brut vs Satan / Don’t worry, we can take ‘em!”
Once they’re done taking down Satan, Art Brut are back to taking on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. On their first album, Bang Bang, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Argos joked about The Velvet Underground, and here he slogs U2 and Brian Eno in one swoop on Slap Dash For No Cash. Immediately following this, over the band’s powerful roar, Argos declares his newfound love of The Replacements: “I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered The Replacements!”
On DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake, Argos relays his love of both. He sings of being poor, eating cereal for every meal, but still experiencing bliss because “some things will always be great – DC Comics and chocolate milkshake – even though I’m 28.” He has a knack for compelling lyrical repetition – each time he repeats a phrase like “I never got over that amazing taste,” it sinks in further.
Sprinkled throughout these songs are references to modern technology. Argos, an avid blogger, sings about the ability of YouTube to disseminate information quickly. When he gets too drunk, he sends a group text message the next morning to anyone he might have offended the night before. It’s updated rock ‘n’ roll material for the digital generation, and it works well.
Argos easily steals the spotlight with his clever observations and references, but at the same time it’s hard to deny the raw power of the blistering guitars, bass, and drums on these songs. Lead single Alcoholics Unanimous mixes tight, punchy riffs with blasts of punk rock. The Pixies‘ Frank Black produced the album, and his ability to capture high-energy performances can certainly be felt throughout.
But Art Brut can do more than play loud and fast. Am I Normal, a ballad of sorts to a lost childhood love, is a low-key mid-tempo rocker that works wonderfully with a comfortable groove. Twist And Shout has an appropriately dancey feel with a springy beat and catchy lead guitar riffs. Closing out the album, Mysterious Bruises flourishes with a slower, funky dance feel akin to a Franz Ferdinand song.
Art Brut have retained their cheeky nature from earlier albums – the riffs and grooves are tight, and the lyrics are clever. This makes Art Brut vs Satan equally danceable and thought-provoking. A rare mixture.