While devotees applaud Sean Brennan’s songwriting, the average fan posting such praise on Amazon.com is more poetic than most of the lyrics in London After Midnight’s 1996 album Psycho Magnet, which took inspiration mainly from Brennan’s trouble with women. Violent Acts of Beauty is a marked improvement on all fronts: The politically charged subjects expand Brennan’s repertoire, and the songwriting is more varied and mature. The production quality is stepped up, with clear layers of separation and more consistent programming. Lyrically, Brennan is still no Rimbaud, but his messages, though still plagued with clichés, are well thought-out and approach from unexpected angles. Boasting one such overdone phrase is “The Beginning of the End,” on which Brennan delivers a staccato vocal like a panhandler mindlessly passing out business cards. Throughout the album, keyboards borrowed from Kraftwerk and Nine Inch Nails complement inventive drum programming with few monotonous exceptions; underwater synths and a paramilitary beat set up the dress parade march of the Bush-basher “Feeling Fascist?” More anti-war sentiment follows on “America’s a Fucking Disease,” but the unapologetically harsh “Republic” really puts a face to Brennan’s ire: Holding soldiers responsible for their part in the war, he charges, “I don’t care if you hurt/I don’t care if you’re blind/If it’s too late to convince you then I don’t care if you die.” Brennan occasionally imitates Marc Almond, and despite the aggressive nature of his devil’s dance music, he never gets overly excited while making the vamps shake it.
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