Music Reviews
Brilliant! Tragic!

Art Brut Brilliant! Tragic!

(Cooking Vinyl) Rating - 6/10

While the natural evolutionary process of any songwriter is to age and mature with time, the same cannot be said of artists who deftly capture the tormented acts and preoccupations of adolescent behavior. Eddie Argos is the type who began fantasizing about what it is to be mature; his frivolous discoveries about manhood were gloriously recreated in episodes that always lead to awkward sexual experiences, delusions of grandeur, and juvenile expectations about hitting the big time. Every unfortunate circumstance should’ve forced him to adapt and learn to act appropriately. Instead, Argos was like the friend who relentlessly thrives, yet never gets the point – determined to achieve his life purpose, but oblivious on how to take that first step.

Maturity is a loose term – some believe that it takes a suit and a paycheck to define their adulthood, while others are convinced that one’s upbringing leads to an organic understanding of certain life situations. Argos’ seize the day outlook is probably the most emphatic: to him, every little achievement without any previous circumstantial thought is a small victory, like when he yelped with joy that he had seen her naked...TWICE! Four albums later, the name of the game is dissolution, with our tattered antihero grieving in Bad Comedian: I spent some time drunk at the Internet/I spent some time that I now regret/who’s this guy that you just met. Considering the scenario, one could surmise that the object of affection probably left him for the same reason that other girl probably left him because he interrupted intercourse to turn up the pop song.

Of all these themes, love remains the one emotion Argos can’t conquer. In Lost Weekend, he apologetically whispers the disaster-prone outcome, but for the first time, luck was simply not in his favor. Ian Catskilkin’s riffing mimes Argos’ plea to the one that got away without realizing that he didn’t do anything wrong in saying the poisonous phrase: I love you. This is the catharsis found in the plot of Brilliant! Tragic!, since a dimming glare in his heart is all it takes for him to stunt his growth spurts and resuscitate the fratty, lovable loser with good intentions that was long gone in the past. The insecure dope proceeds to awkwardly confess his insecurities in Sexy, in which he actually believes that singing to her will summon up her diminishing feelings for him. He sincerely questions: I’m gonna prove I love you and not have you change your mind/ that would be a triumph for a voice like mine. Whereas he couldn’t get the girl before because he was clueless, now he can’t get her because she probably thinks that he’s sort of scum.

Frank Black comes back to produce Brilliant! Tragic!, which makes a lot of sense considering the storm of sharp-toothed guitars recall the trifling last act of the Pixies' career. We’re in the presence of a band that is exploring ways to go beyond the punk rock genus. Granted, the furious eruption that is Martin Kemp straight shoots their finesse in unleashing a heaving squall. Axl Rose begins with a bang, with Argos screaming, this world is fucked/and you’re an idiot. At this point, Argos is reaching down an empty well that hardly has any integrity left, succumbing to channel his protector while some crazed solos justify why it’s best to have Axl in your corner when nobody understands you or even comes close. Let’s convince ourselves it’s all denial after all the continual disappointment.

There’s a noticeable detachment in Brilliant! Tragic!, due in part to a disconnect between Argos’ confused message and the rest of the band members trying to do their part. Since the lyrical content now borders on morose and even sadistic, the music also follows the leader with a muck of baseless solos and thrilling codas to compensate for the otherwise linear compositions. Is Dog Eared begins with a stimulating combination of rising chord play and Argos’ belligerent psychosis, only to fall flat in its face with what sounds like a cast of players trying to aimlessly jam while he tries to recover his composure – he doesn’t, making this the most tedious four minutes in Art Brut’s entire discography.

Brilliant! Tragic! ends on a high note with Sealand, an atypically sweet song (this must be a daydream) that finds Argos and his loved one holding hands in the Principality of Sealand. He’s genuinely complacent and living inside a la la harmony, magnifying their importance in what is believed to be the world’s smallest nation. At this point, we’re reminded of the wonderful songs Art Brut can write when they’re not dicking around with false pretensions and cluttered guitar histrionics. Perhaps Argos needs to vent out all his insecurities so he can discover his true rite of passage.