Art Brut

It's a Bit Complicated (Downtown)

Rock music OS X Version 10.8.9 landed with a lunar-module splashdown last year in the form of Art Brut's debut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll. This incarnation was stripped down to basic punk riffs, injected with classic-rock noodling, and scrapped the singing altogether in favor of chanted soliloquies. Of course, this tactic requires a keen sense of melody and a quick wit, of which vocalist Eddie Argos and his band have no shortage. The gimmick hasn't yet worn thin, but the new record is a more fleshed-out effort, with the group less enamored of its own kitsch than on its debut.

Art Brut essentially makes love songs, showing affection for mixtapes, drinking wine, and sleeping in, or displaying borderline obsessive behavior toward unresponsive girls. Complicated shapes these passions into an irresponsible soundtrack for punk-rock roustabouts, and anyone who spent their youth (or even their later years) compulsively listening to underground records in their bedrooms can relate. From the opening track, "Pump Up the Volume," on which Argos is distracted from his lovemaking by a song on the radio, to "St. Pauli," where he admits to learning German from 7-inch records, Art Brut makes music geekdom cool. The tunes themselves follow suit, as influences ranging from the Ramones to the Kinks pop up, resulting in songs like the brass section-infused "Late Sunday Evening." Flash-in-the-pan success and rock-critic drool aside, the band is taking a sonic step forward. Still, Complicated is an easy-breezy, smarmy, lovely rock record full of songs that, as Argos imagines, are "full of the things we can't say to each other during the day."

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