Art Brut’s Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! is the band’s first full-length studio album in seven years. There has been a recalibration in the line-up, and a new injection of focus from the recuperated Eddie Argos – who had been long-suffering from a serious condition that led to hospitalization. The songwriter also moved to Berlin, became a father, ended one serious relationship, and entered another. From a band that’s often celebrated for its easy-access to the punk spirit, this new album was eagerly awaited, and carried with it the pressure of expectation as a discerning fanbase paced the floor and hoped for a safe delivery.
From the outset – Eddie Argos lets us know what the fuck’s going on. There are exclamations on everything! Opening track ‘Hooray!’ Delivers a kind of manifesto that maps out the direction Argos wants us to travel. Horns blast in, a choir sings “la la la la!” and we’re away. “Close your eyes and hold on tight, everything is gonna be alright! I’m not bitter, and I don’t want her back – there’ll be no ‘Rumors’ or ‘Blood on the Tracks’, if it wasn’t for mistakes being made – I wouldn’t be here today!”
This is an instant portrait of Argos, and exactly the reason he remains so deep in the affections of music fans. We acknowledge the bad times, but we will not be dragged down or muddied with cynicism. There will be no wallowing or self-indulgence – instead, we’ll draw reference to classic albums, address the familiar landmarks of pop culture, celebrate the now, and move beyond, toward better times. Genius. The confidence of this opener lands a blow that creates a slipstream for everything else that follows.
Through the rest of the album Argos delivers thoughts on familiar aspects of the human condition. Loss, confusion, illness, and a deepening sense of mortality – oh, and there’s heartbreak too. However, all of this is balanced with the kind of existential making of ourselves that Art Brut have always managed. It’s the band’s commitment to rocking out that counters all the pain. But ‘rocking out’ isn’t something to be taken lightly. Argos’ point isn’t as flighty or glib as simply dancing away the blues – he weaponizes fun, and in doing so he unsettles the darkness by pouring in joy and wonder.
Across this album the band offer a version of themselves as being almost entirely free. An argument against tyranny will only be met by a tyrannical force. Argos knows this, and so he rocks through weighty issues with a kind of hyper-realistic surrealism; authority is mocked. Art Brut leave footprints on the ceiling, they smash up the kitchen, they steal girlfriends. We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Even those of us who make the silly rules will perish – how can we best approach this life? It’s the serious undermining of the self-serious that Argos does so well, and it’s delivered here in spades. Genuine, exuberant rebellion.
Title track, ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’ holds one of the most affecting vocal tracks of Eddie’s recording career. “I don’t want to go home yet / There’s still some people I haven’t met!” brings an unintentional popping on the vocal track – the high-end cracks, and the electricity of an Art Brut live show touches the recording process. It’s this defiance, and uncontainable energy that underlines the value of a band like Art Brut. “There’s a fire in my soul / I can’t put it out!“.
Arguably one of the more polished-sounding albums we’ve heard from the band, Jim Moray’s production work seems to focus on clarity über-alles. It’s true that there are moments of slight crackle and fizz, but there’s a traditional feel to getting the most out of the natural sounds of performance. There’s no clever-clever jazz or post-modern bullshittery here. Nothing is intentionally frayed, there’s no manufactured distress. It’s like fresh air.
‘Your Enemies Are My Enemies Too’ is a pleasing tribute to solidarity. A love song that underlines unconditional friendship, and the value of simply jumping all in with full support, begs sing-along. “We’re going to be unbeatable” says Argos, with so much confidence that it’s hard to not fall in love with the process of falling in love. Or rocking out. Or kicking against the pricks. Wham! Bang! Pow! indeed.
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READ WHAT EDDIE ARGOS HAS TO SAY FOR HIMSELF: ‘WHAM! BANG! POW! LET’S ROCK OUT!’