Art Brut

It's a Bit Complicated (Downtown)

Eddie Argos' self-conscious lyrics suggest what it'd be like if Rob Gordon, John Cusack's character in High Fidelity, fronted a band. Argos denudes the rock-singer mystique, portraying himself as a hopeless music geek.

On "Pump Up the Volume," the chunky new-wave churner that opens It's a Bit Complicated, Art Brut's sophomore disc, Argos can't help himself from breaking his lover's embrace, only to ask, "Have you heard this song before?" On "Sound of Summer," Argos ponders the pleasures of making mixtapes: "I'm checking the lyrics/ I'm pressing rewind."

Like the Hold Steady's Craig Finn, Argos' charismatic ruminations hypnotize listeners. This allows the music to throttle them. Jagged riffs recall Wire, with the Damned's tunefulness tossed into the mix. Beyond that, there's just a joyous abandon to this music.

As the name Art Brut (a term for outsider art) implies, the U.K. quintet looks to reclaim punk for the people. Referencing Thee Headcoats on "St. Pauli," Argos sighs, "Punk rock is nicht tot." No, it's not.