Art Brut were four albums into their career when Top of the Pops was compiled, but they had enough memorable songs to fill out a respectable selection of their definitive songs as well as rarities and B-sides. While it would be tempting to include entirety of Bang Bang Rock & Roll, the collection does an admirable job of paring that album down to just its brightest highlights, including the song that started it all, "Formed a Band," and "Emily Kane," which is still one of the most unique and yet universal songs about the one who got away. These tracks set the tone for the bolder, brassier sound of It's a Bit Complicated, which found Eddie Argos expanding his songwriting on the brilliantly self-loathing ode to arrested development, "Nag Nag Nag Nag," and the brilliantly celebratory ode to arrested development, "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes." The band's collaboration with Frank Black, Art Brut vs. Satan, offered such revved-up tracks as "Demons Out!," while Brilliant! Tragic! found them offering Pulp-like introspection on "Sexy Sometimes" as well as more expected tirades like "Axl Rose." Interestingly, the two songs recorded for Top of the Pops are more typically Art Brut than they've sounded in a while: "Arizona Bay" nods to Bill Hicks and examines Argos' fear of death in an earthquake with typical dry wit ("For a second I was really scared/And then I just didn't care") over churning punk-pop. "We Make Pop Music," meanwhile, sums up their approach and appeal almost as well as "Formed a Band": "We make pop music for people who don't like people." Hardcore fans will want Top of the Pops not only for these new tracks, but for the odds and sods that round out the collection. Especially notable are the rawer and arguably superior versions of "Formed a Band" and its nearly as brilliant B-side "Bad Weekend," which is as much of a manifesto against pop culture as LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge." Other standout B-sides include "These Animal Menswear" as well as the surprisingly poignant "About Time" and "Just Desserts," both of which dispense some good advice (forgive your parents, eat a big dessert instead of dinner when you're feeling low). The collection also shows off Art Brut's way with covers; their version of the Cure's "Catch" mixes in a clever reprise of "Emily Kane," and their reworking of the Beatles' "Her Majesty" cranks up the volume and swaps and removes the lyrics until they're word soup, making for one of the artiest ways they've put their wry stamp on rock & roll. Top of the Pops is a thorough and lovingly compiled set, and it's only fitting that a band as incredibly geeky about music and pop culture as Art Brut is should get the deluxe treatment.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2