The change of sound on Brilliant! Tragic! may shock listeners initially, but it is better to remain open-minded. Brilliant! Tragic! represents the progression from a sound that has become more of a trend than actually about talent, to something newer, possibly representing what’s to come in the music world. Leader Eddie Argos, who was once loud and proud about his obscure vocals, has tamed his unique style and brought the band from the Franz Ferdinand/The Rakes category of music to one that is comparable to TV on the Radio meets The Libertines. Art Brut takes influence from many different bands and artists for this album, and tries their best to make them all fit well together; sometimes this works well for Brilliant! Tragic! and at other times, it does not work well at all.
“Martin Kemp” sounds like a mix of Blur, Sonic Youth and the Sex Pistols and blends 90s alt-grunge melodies and riffs with 70s inspired punkier vocals and is definitely one of the most impressive tracks on the album. The sound is a lot heavier than what Art Brut has done in the past, but there are still some lighter melodies and tunes incorporated into the song that are reminiscent of things they have done in the past as well; it is a good transition song, leading their fans into what they’re trying to accomplish in a way that isn’t completely different from what they’ve put out previously, and doesn’t just shock and surprise their audiences.
“Axl Rose” is another track on Brilliant! Tragic! that sounds heavily influenced by Sonic Youth, but in a way that’s much different from “Martin Kemp.” The influence and borrowing from Sonic Youth is not hidden in this track, as it sounds like it could be any of the band’s noisier-over-hyped-progressive-and-experimental-tracks that the floor staff at Urban Outfitters discuss over beers one night, and then form a band just so they can make music that is equally as deep and complex. As stated before, some of the tracks on Brilliant! Tragic! take a number of different influences and mesh them together with other ones flawlessly, while others struggle to even be considered as mediocre; “Axl Rose” just barely makes the mediocre line.
Another less than impressive track is “Is Dog Eared.” Reminiscent of the Pixies in terms of guitars as well as vocals that are sometimes too much and obnoxious, but trying to be as long and significant as the Velvet Underground’s “Sister-Ray,” this song just ends up being a droning, too-long, annoyance on the album. It is pretty much the definition of “too much” and it is obvious that the band tried really hard to showcase their talent and progression with this track.
“Sexy,” on the other hand, is another impressive track on the album. Sounding like Modest Mouse meets TV on the Radio meets the XX; it provides another example of mixing influences (both new and old) and doing it well. The dreamier, distant vocals mixed with the subdued guitars and instrumentals makes for a song that proves that Art Brut are good at more than just creating music that fits the “art wave” genre they were dropped into when they first came out in 2003.
Although they may be good at more than just the typical “art wave” sound, the band still pays its respects to a genre of music that has carried them this far and enabled them to create and maintain a large fanbase over the years. “Lost Weekend” is probably the track on the album that is closest to what the band is known for in terms of sound, rhythm and vocals. It is light-hearted, catchy and the lyric “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you, by saying something stupid like ‘I love you’,” is sure to get stuck in your head for at least a few hours after hearing this track for the first time.
Whether it is progressive or traditional in terms of what Art Brut is sounding like, the band stays consistent with the level of content and talent they’re willing to deliver. With some great tracks, and some tracks that are only just okay, Brilliant! Tragic! is definitely worth listening to at least once or twice this summer.