Art Brut 

It's a Bit Complicated (Downtown)

With so many British re-wavers getting mopey on their second albums (Bloc Party, Futureheads, Kaiser Chiefs, etc.), the question loomed: How would Art Brut follow up its utterly charming 2005 debut album, Bang Bang Rock & Roll? Was there more gas left in that album's hooky post-punk pop and dry, observant humor — or would the Brut follow some misguided muse toward "progression"? While it's more reflective than the debut, the energetic It's a Bit Complicated makes those other sophomore efforts look even more sluggish. Here, Bang Bang's ragged lo-fi buzz gets slicked up with several coats of gloss, like new guitarist Jasper Future's demi-metal riffs on songs like "Nag Nag Nag Nag" and "Direct Hit." This style-less rock blare takes Art Brut several steps toward sounding like everybody else — until unmistakable frontman Eddie Argos opens his mouth. Argos can still spear the perfect detail in a situation, and render it with plainspoken wit: "People in love lie around and get fat/I didn't want us to end up like that," he talk-sings in the defiant, uplifting, post-breakup anthem "People in Love." The group's Class of 2005 peers might be more "serious" and "mature" these days, but these bands still have nothing on Art Brut's catchy charisma.

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