Art Brut – Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

Close your eyes and hold on tight, everything’s gonna be alright!” These aren’t just the opening words to Art Brut’s comeback record Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, they could easily be Eddie Argos’ personal mantra too. Following the temporary dissolution of the band seven years ago, a new line-up has formed around the charismatic frontman. With births, hospital stays and break-ups, it doesn’t sound like the last few years have been particularly quiet. However, it is safe to say that what began as a ‘break-up’ album turned inescapably into an ‘in-love’ album, for the band and listener as much as in Argos’ personal life.

They’ll be no ‘Rumours’ or ‘Blood on the Tracks’” goes the opening ‘Hooray!’, and that much is true. This is no ordinary break-up album. The end of a relationship has certainly never felt as much fun as ‘I Hope You’re Very Happy Together’ makes it seem, with trumpets and a pure sense of joy hanging over the early parts of the record. While much of it may sound like the kind of indie music that seemed to have disappeared a decade ago, the distance and goodwill that always surrounded Art Brut means that there is not an ounce of jadedness about it. The Pixies-esque ‘Good Morning Berlin’ would indicate that his mind may have been lost at one point, but it has been found somewhere in the German capital, somewhere: “Hipsters with beards are eating falafel”.

Life in Berlin dominates much of Wham! Bang! Pow!…, whether it is dodging fares on ‘Schwarzfahrer’ or just Argos’ general day-to-day existence. ‘She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like A Hit)’ is like a sugar rush, infectious in its effervescent delivery. There is a sense that he always continued to make his astute observations on modern life for the entire time that the band were away, we just couldn’t hear him as life went on. Now he has come back to the limelight, he can tell us all about his enforced change of diets and awkward breakfasts. The classic Art Brut sound, now updated due to the addition of new members Toby Macfarlane (guitar) and Charlie Layton (drums) to the existing trio of Argos, Ian Catskilkin and Freddy Feedback, plays plenty of pleasant homage to their post-punk revival days – nowhere more so than the Franz-aping: “So clever, so clever” refrain to ‘Too Clever’.

There’s plenty of nods to his past, such as ‘Kultfigur’ which seems to suggest that the band that they formed back in 2005 has now become something of a cult concern – art imitating life imitating art? Elsewhere, on ‘Veronica Falls’ there is the brutal honesty of a man contemplating the missed opportunities that take on deeper meaning after a relationship has ended. There’s undoubtedly a sizeable amount of people out there who will not be able to get tuned into Argos’ sense of humour, but those that do will find buckets of fun. The most unlikely comeback of 2018 (yes, even more than Busted) is a glorious success. Wham, bang, pow indeed.

Jamie MacMillan

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