Friday, 27 May 2011

Suck It And See - review


Arctic Monkeys
Suck It and See.
Domino records

After the critical acclaim, yet only lukewarm fan reception, to the group’s last album ‘Humbug’, the expectations were high for ‘Suck It and See’. When the band released online ‘Brick By Brick’ I’m sure there were more than a few worried looking faces at the record label, as it seemed that they had lost their way and were an almost different group from the young upstarts of only 5 years ago.

I, like most, was a little knocked off balance upon hearing ‘Crying Lightning’ for the first time and thought they had missed the mark, only to do a complete 180 degree turn a matter of listens later where it now ranks as one of my favourite tunes in their canon. We all know Alex Turner is either a genius or bordering on one, his song-writing and especially his lyrical ability is really second to none in his generation. The only person I can really think of to compare him to (a pointless task I grant you but what the hell) would be Morrissey, with the ability to blend true emotion, heart-break, joy and humour all in the space of a single line.

The album starts with ‘She’s Thunderstorms’, a Smiths sounding track that is immediate and a great choice of opener showing the band have moved on from both their initial scrappy indie songs and their more recent heavier outings. ‘Black Treacle’ is a bone fide Arctic Monkeys, future live favourite in the class of their most popular hits complete with a strong chorus, which is positioned perfectly as the next track on the album is the aforementioned and online ridiculed ‘Brick By Brick’ (youtube clip from ‘Downfall’ Hitler parody especially funny.) Amazingly in the context of the record as a whole fits in perfectly. I think it could win over even the most ardent angry fan to chant its chorus during the upcoming tour.

‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ is my favourite track here. It’s got everything that I like in a song. It’s one cut from the cloth of side project The Last Shadow Puppets and complete with ‘shalalala’ hook and jingle jangle 60s guitars, is pure pop music. It even has the great line “took the batteries out my mysticism and put ‘em in my thinking cap”...lovely. Not even half way through and it shows that the band are in a good place and actually enjoying themselves, drumming especially great.

‘Don’t Sit Down ‘cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ was the 1st release from the album, after ‘Brick By Brick’ dipped it’s toe in the online waters, and is another great song that shows the growth of the band throughout their journey and album career and is probably best described as the ‘join’ between ‘Humbug’ and ‘Suck It and See’. Heavier riffs are back and proof that the groups leaning towards louder rock and Josh Homme wasn’t a simple fleeting fad for the band and that in fact it is now a part of their music armoury.

Now midway through the album we reach the tracks best described as ‘album tracks’, make of that what you will. ‘Library Pictures’ although not one of the best tracks here, due to the simplified AAB structure, is a definite future live favourite with heavy mosh pit ready chorus riff. ‘All My Own Stunts’ opens with some studio banter and guitar twiddling before kicking straight into another riff heavy, rock track à la Homme.

Control is got once again with the excellent ‘Reckless Serenade’, a bass led song that steers away from the usual guitar then louder guitar format, and although only just making it to the 3 minute mark does features a classic Turner lyric showing the embarrassment when 2 lovers get carried away during their first embrace i.e. “the type of kisses where teeth collide”, repeated listening brings to attention new musical hooks appearing out of the wood work almost like the band are always trying to cram another one in before holding the cupboard door shut…then….one more…go on…done.

Recently Alex Turner wrote and recorded the excellent soundtrack to the film ‘Submarine’ which included a stripped down version of the song ‘Piledriver Waltz’ and I would go as far as to say that this track (here in it’s re-recorded full band treatment) is a contender for one of Turners greatest songs. With a beautiful melody anchored with poignant lyrics and although heavier than the original recording, the band don’t take anything away from the song, in fact quite the contrary. I think this song was a case of it being too good to chance it being lost on a soundtrack album (as great an album Submarine OST is) and by adding it here helped bring it to the forefront and to a wider audience.

‘Love is a Laserquest’ follows and it seems that the Sheffield Morrissey is brought out of the drawer again. Who would have thought the Arctic Monkeys could ‘croon’ with the best of them? The song itself is a slow burner definitely, but atmospheric and once again reminiscent of his work with Miles Kane and The Last Shadow Puppets.

‘Suck It and See’ the title track and a possible contender for next single, in my opinion, from the opening indie doo-wop chords to the band drop in, shows immediate pop at its best without sounding clichéd or tired. The final reminder that the Arctic Monkeys are still firing on all cylinders and haven’t reverted to effects boxes and loops to ‘progress’ their own envelope pushing, the song is still king for these boys (sorry…men) and this is another great example for your collection.

Suck It and See ends with ‘That’s where you’re wrong’ and running at 4 minutes 18 seconds is one of the longest here, although any fears about the group going the way of YES and Pink Floyd are probably without merit. A straight ahead, mid tempo indie song, not the best ending track but with peaks throughout. A strange choice of last track but again it’s not the first time I’ve been wrong about these things...give it a week and I’ll be telling everyone within ear shot that it’s their crowning achievement.

I’ve given the album as a whole multiple listens now and I think it’s definitely up there with their best work, showing maturity in both the writing and the musicianship as a whole. Especially the rhythm section who are a tight, powerful cradle for both guitars and vocals to sit on, without a chance of collapsing under the multiple rhymes and tongue twisters being thrown out of each verse. I think this will be the album that brings back the floods of fans that had been worried the group had gone all American and hairy, and shows that they are still the same guys that made ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and ‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor’. Welcome back, definitely no monkey business going on here.


Suck It And See is released on the 6th June on Domino Records

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