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It’s Really Complicated

By David King

Art Brut

It’s a Bit Complicated (Downtown)

Friends, there is good news from Britain: Art Brut are nicht tot! In love with pop rock, in love with love (and falling in and out of it), lead singer Eddie Argos kicks things off with a smarmy apology: “I know I shouldn’t/Is it so wrong/To break from a kiss to turn up a pop song?” It’s a Bit Complicated does not equal the pure fun of the band’s debut Bang Bang Rock n Roll. That’s not to say it isn’t a hoot—it’s just that the irreverent joy quotient has been toned down a bit by Argos’ anxiety. Art Brut still sound like your little brothers’ Pixie tribute band with a sarcastic Brit for a lead singer. It sounds like they’ve started to worry about their chops and are trying to make things complicated. But really, why bother? The result is that the album is a bit drier and a tad more serious in places, musically as well as lyrically. And if Argos seems apologetic in tone, it is because he is constantly apologizing—for his accent, his lack of commitment, his bad make-out etiquette. In fact, It’s a Bit Complicated could be the 21st-century version of Weezer’s Pinkerton. On “St. Pauli,” it sounds like the band might be back to their total irreverence with Argos shouting, “Punk rock ist nicht tot!,” but then he apologizes: “Sorry if my accent’s flawed/I learned my German from a 7-inch record.” Eddie should get over his hang-ups, because despite all his apologies, It’s a Bit Complicated is the album of the summer.

Job for a Cowboy

Genesis (Metal Blade)

MySpace has done some funny things. It has reduced friendship to a series of button clicks, made cheap hookups easier than hanging out on Pearl Street for 20 minutes, and helped mascara-wearing emo kids get over their fear of human interaction. But the success of Internet darlings Job for a Cowboy’s debut full-length has topped all MySpace’s previous odd accomplishments. The band caused a stir with their EP, Doom, because, um. . . . well, I don’t know why. The EP was a collection of amateurish metalcore with a singer who could squeal like a pig. The album is certainly tighter musically, featuring adequately performed death metal with a singer of limited range who no longer squeals very much. (Evil pig noises scare Hot Topic kids.) Job for a Cowboy blur the lines of metalcore and wind up with something very average. But at least those metal kids who hang at the mall have a reason to buy new shirts: Slipknot and Killswitch Engage have been replaced by Job for a Cowboy.

The Clay People

Waking the Dead (Overit)

To call Waking the Dead a transitional album for the Clay People would be an understatement. After years of inactivity, the Clay People have returned, looking for a musical home. For the first eight tracks, the band struggle to find their proper place. They successfully flirt with David Bowie, the Beatles and, unfortunately, with Nickelback. It isn’t until later in the album that they find themselves. But that’s OK—there are 15 tracks on the album. The haunting “Never Give Up” goes from spooky to powerful when the chorus opens up with its dense, ringing chords long enough to give singer Dan Neet a chance to do what he does best: devour the track with his booming, operatic voice. That is when the album truly starts. The rest of it takes a more cohesive tone, with an interesting, My Bloody Valentine-inspired sound, fleshed out with thick, fuzzy chords and backed by atmospheric flourishes and precise drumming, which provide a proper base for Neet’s gargantuan voice. If the second half of Waking the Dead represents the sound of the new Clay People, I am stoked and would politely like to ask them to get their asses back in the studio.

Poison the Well

Versions (Ferret)

In Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby, the narrator—driven a bit crazy by a culling song that lets him will people to death, and by his neighbor’s rattling stereo and the booming bass of passing traffic—talks about a coming sound war, an escalation of sound where, eventually, noise will become lethal and even outlawed in a world in which people fret about hearing things just as much as they fret about disease. Poison the Well reached the peak in the metalcore sound war with their last album, the major-label release You Come Before You. In fact, their last album was so unnecessarily harsh and without direction that it almost killed me. Poison the Well since have exited the metalcore arms race and the world of major labels, and on Versions, they instead spend their time on songwriting and atmospherics. Since they’ve always produced quirky, spazzy, emotional metalcore, I expected a more emotionally satisfying and diverse result from Versions. Instead, what they deliver is bleak, desolate, cold and unchanging: clanging chords like icicles breaking against brass, slide guitars and banjos that sound like vultures circling lead singer Jeffrey Moreira as he issues his piteous screams. Poison the Well now use despair as a weapon. And again, I feel lucky to have escaped with my life.

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