Most bands recording their second album are under enough pressure without having to worry about the quality of their punch lines. But that was Art Brut’s position thanks to 2005’s Bang Bang Rock & Roll, the Brit band’s collection of post-punk stand-up detailing the insecurities of frontman Eddie Argos, as well as his opinions on music, art, and dim-witted Italian bank robbers. It’s a Bit Complicated is decidedly less topical, sticking mostly to uninspired relationship territory, from the dance-floor pick-up to the bitter end. Argos’s romantic neuroses are best displayed on “Pump Up the Volume,” where he’s more concerned with the background music than the make-out session at hand. Still, this bedroom dilemma fails to conjure pitying chuckles the way “The Rusted Gun of Milan,” a brilliant tale of erectile dysfunction, did on Bang Bang. Here and there, Complicated sets up some promising scenarios—worrying about a platonic friend’s reaction to a mix tape, or trying to initiate sex for the sake of outdoing a girlfriend’s exes—but they never pan out.
The other missing element is the debut’s uninhibited enthusiasm. (There isn’t much to say about the actual music except that more experienced hands keep the riffs a little crisper.) Complicated is sadly deficient of wild-eyed raves for old flames and new ones. Argos manages to drum up a little excitement for his favorite team on “St. Pauli,” but jokes about German football clubs weren’t meant for this side of the ocean.
Art Brut play the Highline Ballroom July 9, highlineballroom.com