A collaboration between Art Brut and Frank Black is a marriage made in witty, punky heaven, and while Art Brut vs. Satan may not quite live up to fans' wildest fantasies -- say, a cross between "Formed a Band" and "Debaser" -- having Black produce this album was just what the band needed. Despite its bright moments, It's a Bit Complicated lived up to its name, occasionally sounding a little studied and stifled. However, this installment of the world according to Art Brut recaptures much of the loose, freewheeling fun they had back when they formed a band. Like the obsessive music fan he is, frontman Eddie Argos isn't just a Pixies aficionado but a Frank Black and the Catholics devotee as well, and Art Brut vs. Satan has more than a little of the direct-to-two-track energy of Black's Catholics album. These songs were bashed out in just a few weeks and still feel fresh and raw: the excellent anthem to rough-and-ready recording "Slap Dash for No Cash," in which Argos tells Brian Eno to "cool his warm jets," embodies the album's sound perfectly. Musically speaking, Art Brut vs. Satan holds some of the band's most direct work, a no-frills mix of punk and indie that puts the focus on Argos' fascinations and manifestos. Though his lyrics have gotten less intimate since Bang Bang Rock & Roll, Argos has found ways to expand on his everyman-with-a-meta-twist persona: "Alcoholics Unanimous" and "Mysterious Bruises" (which features a brilliant nod to the Bobby Fuller Four with the line "I fought the floor and the floor won!") bookend the album with songs about drinking, a subject matter close to Argos' heart; on "The Passenger" (no, it's not an Iggy Pop cover), he sings about public transportation with the same amount of passion. Maturity -- or lacking it -- is still a huge theme, most poignantly and amusingly on "Am I Normal?," which turns the classic preteen question into a self-loathing examination of crushes and panic attacks set to stabbing guitars, while "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake" revels in just how delicious arrested development can be. And as always, Art Brut continue their mission to exponentially increase the amount of music about music: "Demons Out!" is the righteous flipside to "Bang Bang Rock & Roll"'s radical populism, with Argos shouting "the record buying public shouldn't be voting!" Best of all, though, are the songs where all of these topics collide, like "What a Rush," which throws together morning-after regrets, a battle of the sexes, and record collections to the rollicking refrain "Parents, please lock up your daughters!" "The Replacements," meanwhile, uses discovering a favorite new/old band as a jumping off point for trusting a band (or a person) enough to really like them, with used and reissued CDs proving that love can be sweeter the second(hand) time around. This joy of discovery and rediscovery is what makes Art Brut's music so vital at its best: They may be eternal adolescents, but they're also true believers in what made rock & roll great in the first place. They won't hide -- can't hide -- that enthusiasm, and it's contagious on Art Brut vs. Satan.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares