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Brilliant! Tragic!

Rate It! Avg: 3.5 (39 ratings)
Brilliant! Tragic! album cover
Clever Clever Jazz
Lost Weekend
Bad Comedian
Sexy Sometimes
Is Dog Eared
Martin Kemp
Axel Rose
I Am the Psychic
Ice Hockey
Album Information

Total Tracks: 10   Total Length: 40:17

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Ian Gittins


Ian Gittins is a music writer for the Guardian who has also written for Melody Maker, Q, Time Out, MTV, Daily Telegraph and New York Times. He is the co-author

Rich on tunes, laughs and, underneath it all, a heartening love of life
Label: The End-Cooking Vinyl / The Orchard

Art Brut had their moment in the indie rock spotlight around 2005, when the excitable U.K. weekly music magazine NME proclaimed them part of an "Art Wave" movement alongside Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party. The music media's focus has long moved on to other matters, but the London five-piece have defiantly continued making albums of attitudinal, semi-comedic art-punk. Brilliant! Tragic!, their fourth album and the second to be produced by Frank Black,… read more »

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“Play what you know!” Eddie Argos shouts during “Clever Clever Jazz,” the song that not only opens Brilliant! Tragic!, but sets up its meta context as well. Art Brut may still be extremely self-aware, but the band spends plenty of time trying new things on this album, and they picked a crucial time to do it. Despite the very real charms of It’s a Bit Complicated and Art Brut vs. Satan, it often felt like the band was trying to recapture the brilliance of Bang Bang Rock & Roll with diminishing returns. They start to move out of that album’s shadow with more expansive songs that give Argos’ monologues the space they deserve as well as room for an extended guitar solo or two. He seems particularly inspired throughout Brilliant! Tragic!, with observations ranging from the poignant “I want to be played in the background/whilst couples drink their wine” on the manifesto for egalitarian sex appeal “Sexy Sometimes” to the uniquely scathing “I bet he signs his name in Comic Sans!” on “Bad Comedian,” a study in harboring not just jealousy over an ex’s new boyfriend, but an all-consuming disgust. There’s a sharper edge not just to Argos’ observations, but to his voice as well: he explores a sotto voce rasp that has more in common with Jarvis Cocker or Luke Haines than his usual full-throated bellow. “Is Dog Eared” presents all of Brilliant! Tragic!’s experiments in one song to striking effect, as Argos compares himself to an old book with whisper-to-a-shout vocals over six minutes of bass-heavy dance-punk. Art Brut does go back to playing what the band knows best from time to time, revisiting tried and true subjects like weekends good, bad and lost, and nostalgia for long-ago crushes, but it often feels like they’re doing it for old times’ sake. A notable exception, however, is “Axl Rose,” which embodies teenage angst from its opening wail “This world is fucked and you’re an idiot” to its suitably busy guitar solo. Brilliant! Tragic! is a little uneven in its mix of new and familiar ideas, but for a band as clearly defined — and sometimes confined — by its approach as Art Brut is, to start changing the formula is a big step forward. – Heather Phares

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