I’ve been painting other peoples favourites albums for about a year and a half. I’m a bit addicted to it. With that project, I listen to the person’s favourite album while painting it, and then I write a review at the end. After about the first twenty paintings, I realised that every now and again I need to paint in silence to stop myself going mad.
I started occasionally making Art Brut It’s a Bit Complicated paintings as I already had lots of album-shaped canvases, and it was an album I didn’t really feel the need to listen too, as I know it quite well. I have quite a few It’s a Bit Complicated’s now and thought it was time I listened to the album to see if I know it as well as I thought I did. I thought I’d use the same structure as I did when I listened to Bang Bang Rock and Roll for popbollocks, so this seems like the perfect place to write down my thoughts a second time.
So here we go listening to It’s A Bit Complicated for the first time in ages:
Pump Up The Volume:
This is one of my favourite Art Brut songs, I’d loved the music for a long time before I wrote the words. I remember Art Brut were figuring it out in soundchecks for a long time. I would hear it from the dressing room where I would be sat eating chocolate and reading comics (they had figured out we would need a second album soon, much quicker than I had)
When it came to writing this, our second album, I’d gone a bit mad I think, I really struggled with the lyrics and was doing strange things like walking to my old place of work over and over again. I had written a lot of the lyrics for the first album on that journey and thought maybe it would help me write new ones if I did the same thing now. It did not help.
We didn’t even really stop touring Bang Bang Rock and Roll to write and record this album. That first album sold more than 250,000 copies in the end, just not all at the same time. We would often have to leave the studio/rehearsal room where we were writing It’s A Bit Complicated, to go to some far flung place where Bang Bang Rock and Roll had just come out. I am not complaining, that was a great time, but I have always been shit at multitasking, so in hindsight I think that is why I was finding it so hard to write new words. I just needed a little time at home.
Eventually we were home for more than three or four days in a row and the words to this song just popped into my head all at once, like magic, from nowhere, I hadn’t even needed to go on the hour-long walk to my old job. I wish more entire song lyrics would just pop into my head like that. Not so late at night though, as I was trying to sleep when “Pump Up The Volume” appeared, and afterwards was so excited that I stayed up all night.
Ian was living in the studio when we recorded this album, and added the “Huh Huh Huh Huh Huh Huh” vocals as a surprise for us one night all by himself. I like them a lot, but I think he might have been going a bit mad at the time too.
I wish at the end of this song I had sung ‘Stick to the kissing, ignore the pop song’ like I do live now. I guess I hadn’t learnt that lesson yet when I wrote it.
This is the first song Jasper wrote when he joined Art Brut,
I always thought it was strange when some of the reviews for this album said it sounded exactly like the first one, the only thing that sounds the same I think is my voice. To me this sounds totally different to BBR&R. We really wanted to be a big fuck off proper guitar pop band at this point and were trying really hard to do that, especially on this song. In hindsight I think we should have emphasised that a bit more with the album cover art. I like the cover, I’ve just spent a year and a half painting it, but perhaps it would have been better if it had been us all glossy and airbrushed sitting in a flash car, or kicking the earth into the sun or something. Something that would hammer the point home; WE ARE A POP BAND NOW.
I was trying to be clever and write the sort of lyrics I thought chart smash guitar songs had in them, lyrics about girls and boys meeting on a dance floor and snogging each other. Its weird hearing me sing in the third person. I think this is the only song on which I do it.
There was a great big “Good Vibrations” breakdown in this song at one point, with keys being dropped and bottles being smashed and deodorant cans being sprayed, with lots of backing vocals, you can still hear parts of it here. Dan Swift, who produced the album, really put a lot of effort into the pop production we asked for, bringing a lot of his strange ideas along too.
Hank Starrs from Animals That Swim sung a duet of this with me for the B-Side and told me that he really liked the the “move around like your shoes don’t fit” lyric which made my day, as I fucking love Animals That Swim.
He also cheekily offered me his old unused lyrics but I didn’t take them (or did I?)
We played “Direct Hit” on Conan O’Brien’s show in America. As we finished performing Conan came over and asked Jasper what guitar he was playing. Jasper didn’t know.
This apparently is my first band the Art Goblin’s (that Jasper was also in) song “Disco” with the chord progression played backwards. The lyrics come from a time I fell out with everybody; the band, and all my friends in Hamburg. I walked around lonely by myself, until I met a bunch of St Pauli supporters and got drunk with them.
That stopped me being lonely.
The “Arrrggghhhhhhhh!” in the middle of the song is the very last thing I recorded for the album, I recorded it in the stairwell, put the microphone down and left pleased with a job well done.
People In Love:
I went through a break-up right in the middle of writing this album, which looking back might have also had an effect on the lyrics. This song was MUCH DARKER the first time I sung it but as I slowly got better and the album recording progressed I kept rewriting it, till it became this break up song of comfort. It’s still a break-up song though. A few people have told me they played it at their wedding, so I feel I should point that out.
Late Sunday Evening:
I wrote this late on a Sunday evening. The chorus rhymes “done “with itself three times. Which somehow I didn’t notice at the time but annoys me listening to it now. It is a Kurt Vonnegut quote though from Timequake so I think that excuses me.
I love the horn section on this, there are horns on the new Art Brut album too. I wish there was a horn section on all of our songs.
I Will Survive:
I love the guitars on this they sound massive, it sounds like a celebration of living terribly, which I suppose it is
This song is about a house I lived in in Poole when I was about 20, it was kind of disgusting. There was no lock on the door and we would find friends of friends asleep in our living room all the time. I never did any washing up and would drink tea out of any clean vessel I could find (I once really did use a saucepan to avoid washing up) we never had any electricity as we couldn’t afford the meter, it was damp and full of piles of everybodies laundry just kicked into corners.
I thought I’d outgrown living like this by the time I wrote this song, but as soon as Keith Top Of The Pops (who I was living with at the time) heard it, he immediately presumed it was about our current living situation, so maybe I hadn’t.
Post Soothing Out:
This is the best Art Brut song. I’ve not heard this album in ages and I keep getting surprised by little production flourishes all the sweet backing vocals and little bits of bass popping through, Dan Swift spent so much time on the production of this album, I’m going to say it again but this is our attempt at a proper pop album and Dan Swift put so much effort into that.
This song just missed out on being on the first Art Brut album as I hadn’t finished the lyrics. I think at one point the music was used for “Emily Kane” and also at some other point a song called “Right Girl Wrong Feeling.”
It’s about a mix of ex-girlfriends that I felt I’d let down, “Post Soothing Out” is what you get in your phone if you are trying to text someone “I’ll Sort Something Out” but aren’t really paying attention to what you are doing. I ended up performing it with the ex-girlfriend. It’s mainly about in a musical we wrote called The Islanders, we performed it in front of her parents too. That was pretty intense. Jim Moray who wrote the music for the other songs in The Islanders made a much more stripped down version of the song which I love too. Jim is producing the new Art Brut album, the new one is a pop album too.
Blame It On The Trains:
This is another song that was nearly on the first album but I hadn’t finished the lyrics in time, I’m glad both songs are on this album and not Bang Bang Rock and Roll, the pop production really suits them more than the punkier sound of the first album. I don’t think we’ve ever played this song like this live though. We had been playing it the old way so long we couldn’t get our heads around playing it differently. I really like writing love songs.
Sound Of The Summer:
When I was listening to Bang Bang Rock and Roll to write about it for popbollocks, I had to use Youtube as we haven’t got around to putting that album on Spotify. Under “My Little Brother” in the comments section somebody was asking what a B-Side was. This song would really confuse them.
I really am fetishing mix tapes and vinyl to the point where I’m nearly a parody of myself here. It’s kind of about a girlfriend I had when I was a teenager we were giving each other mixtapes one summer and not really admitting what it was about. I’ve definitely added some romanticism to it though. My handwriting was really bad and I think she thought the Flaming Lips song I put on her tape was by some weird country band. Her handwriting was all bunched up so I ended up getting all the artists and songs confused. For quite a long time I thought “12 Reasons Why” by My Life Story was “Motorcycle Emptiness” by The Manic Street Preachers. I had the Longpigs and The 60ft Dolls confused for a while too. You can probably place the exact time of the relationship by the songs I’ve just mentioned were on the tape. The Bluetones were on there too. “Demon Behind My Smile”, a song I still love.
I didn’t think we’d ever played this live, but somebody tagged me in a setlist the other day and this was on it. So I guess we must have (maybe)
Nag Nag Nag Nag:
This is another one of my favourite Art Brut songs, it’s another one that arrived in my head fully formed too. Well all of it apart from the first verse. I was stuck on that for ages. I have no idea how “wet trousers in the washing machine” came to me. I didn’t even have the second part. I was walking around looking for some muse and it popped in my head. I just became convinced that our new single should start with the words wet trousers in the washing machine and then couldn’t let it go.
I love playing this live, its so intense right at the end there.
Its called “Nag Nag Nag Nag” because Russell Senior (who had a crack at producing it) told me it sounded like Nag Nag Nag by Cabaret Voltaire and I wanted to be one Nag better than them.
When my brother first saw our new single was called that, but had not yet heard it, he was worried that we had gone ‘full Chas and Dave’ and thought it was going to be like “Rabbit”.
I’ve not heard or thought about this song in a while, and it just made be blush. I guess I’m overcompensating after “Rusted Guns Of Milan” on our first album. I do come across as a bit of a low-key sex-pest though. There are no songs about being a sex-pest on the new album
Was strange to listen to this album again. The production is even more pop than I remember, I’m still proud of it and think we achieved what we set out to do. I’m glad I didn’t have to listen to it 22 times while I made the paintings though. I think our new album is somewhere between this and Bang Bang Rock and Roll. I’m looking forward to you all hearing it. Until then if you want to buy one of the paintings of this album you can get them here. (edit – just look at that fuck-off massive link that will take you to the paintings!)
PHOTO OF MR. ARGOS BY TOM BARNES