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Complicated Matters

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Behold the power of Art Brut, one of this decade's great art-punk bands. Deceptively simple and obstinately dumb, but in that clever kind of way that those who don't dig below the surface will never understand, Art Brut — named for French painter Jean Debuffet's definition of outsider art done by mental patients and other social misfits — burst on to the alternative scene in 2005 with Bang Bang Rock & Roll, and its colorful, insanely catchy batch of glib, punchy, three-minute shots of raw energy. Art never sounded so fun.


Kinetic and furiously paced, with squeaky-clean guitars, faux-British vocals and tight rhythms, Bang Bang Rock & Roll was a big hit with critics, and the band's newest release, titled It's A Bit Complicated, promises more of the same. A link to a five-song advance was doled out to the press this week, and from the sound of things, it's just as explosive, if a bit slick, as Bang Bang. "Direct Hit," so far the best track, hits the accelerator and never slows down, the guitars sounding sharp and tough, with shouted backing vocals and painfully hilarious lyrics about a guy who can't pick up girls at the pub.

The cheeky handclaps and dizzying guitar patterns of the hook-filled "Post Smoothing Out" — check that title, it sounds more like "Past Smoothing Out" when you hear the chorus — make it a smart pop exercise, while "Pump Up The Volume" offers stinging sheets of riffs and a " ... break from a kiss to turn up a pop song" in a story about coitus interruptus caused by listening to the radio. "Late Sunday" and the buzz-saw rocker "Nag Nag Nag Nag" follow similar paths, caught up in nests of hooks that come at you straight or in a more roundabout fashion. Either way, Art Brut has that indefinable "it" that makes you want to jump up off the couch and pogo till you snap your achilles.

In the next few days, you have a couple of chances to catch Art Brut in North America. Tonight, the band plays Toronto at the Mod Club, before heading to Chicago on Friday to rock Subterranean and then hitting Los Angeles' famed Troubadour club. Get it while it's hot. Art Brut will be off then till June, when they embark on a headlining tour of the U.K.