All Art Brut’s frontman Eddie Argos wants is to reassure you. He wants you to know that no matter how bleak things look, no matter how bereft your life appears, whether you’ve been through a bad break-up or you’re on bedrest, everything’s going to be alright.
He even says so on “Hooray!”, the opening song from the band’s first album in seven years, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, a title that promises nothing but pure, unadulterated good times and delivers on that promise. “Everything’s gonna be alright!” Argos hollers over the crack of Charlie Layton’s snare drum, the buzz of Toby MacFarlaine’s and Ian Catskilkin’s guitars, the thick hum of Freddy Feedback’s bass.
Think of Argos as a salesman. He’s so earnest and energized that you can’t help buying into his upbeat, no-nonsense evangelizing. Mistakes, he proclaims, make us who we are. So even if your life is peppered by mistakes, well, that’s okay. Break the rules! You have a second chance! Take it and don’t let go! He does in three minutes what Tony Robbins has spent an entire career doing.
But Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! isn’t playing Pollyanna; Argos isn’t fool enough to think those good times will last forever. The euphoria of “Hooray!” bleeds into “I Hope You’re Very Happy Together,” a breakup song and rebuke to an ex, a lesson in picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and walking away from your relationship while keeping your spirit intact; this gives way into “Good Morning Berlin,” a gloomier affair by far, still clutching optimism but an optimism dented and chipped by the realities of the social media era. Any given day, you’re open to salvos and volleys of harsh invective from strangers casting their aspersions through Twitter. “All I see when I check my mentions,” Argos laments, “is some curse words and good intentions.”
The casual ease with which insults are dealt in 2018 is enough to make anyone question the state they’re in, and this, maybe more than art pop zing woven in Art Brut’s DNA, is Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’s signature element. It’s hard to be good. It’s even harder to believe that things will be good, or stay good, or go back to being good when you’re exposed to the bad the moment you walk out your door or wake up in the morning. Argos’ recurring source of solace, surprisingly, is the same thing he rejects in “I Hope You’re Very Happy Together”: In amor, as narrated in “She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like a Hit)” and “Schwarzfahrer.” A proper smoldering romance makes a terrific shield to ward off the exterior nonsense numbing the buzz of embracing living.
Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’s effect is yo-yoing. One moment, you’re up. The next, you’re back down. Rinse, lather, repeat. The album is structured around that very idea, of course, with “Hooray!” and “Your Enemies Are My Enemies Too” providing bookends for the story Argos tells us; the former, in retrospect, sort of begs the question, because the latter affirms its intentions. Everything’s alright, when all’s said and done, so long as you’ve got someone to come home to and write songs for. (You don’t actually have to write songs for the sentiment to apply to you. You could bake them cakes and the message would still read the same.)
But though Argos’ point is well taken, the result, at times, is that Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! occasionally resembles a ramble. Maybe that’s more an issue of how the tracks are arranged, how the good and the bad are doled out across its vital, dynamic aural scheme. Maybe two love songs in a row is one too many, especially when they’re followed up by a trip to a hospital in “Hospital,” an anthem to a healthy lifestyle spurred by too much drink and apparently catastrophic dietary choices. (“I’m going to drink plenty of water and eat my greens!” Argos insists, the first step taken on the path toward sanctimony.)
Still, if Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! is a ramble, it’s an infectious ramble, too much fun not to rock out to; you’ll pick out bits and pieces of The Mr. T Experience, Descendents and Ted Leo in the record’s texture, but then again, you may be too busy bobbing your head along to care about such paltry things as influence. The very title is a goddamn invitation. Don’t hold Art Brut’s joie de vivre against them; we need it as much as they live it.
Boston-based culture writer Andy Crump has been writing about film and television online since 2009 (and music since 2018). You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.