Review Summary: Arctic Monkeys are still a gang of close friends still very much in touch with their roots.
The problem inherent in becoming famous is that you can very easily lose touch with reality. On their debut LP, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
, Alex Turner and his band of kind of merry men regaled us with tales of growing up in the north of England; nights out on the town, disinterested dollybirds and befuddled romance. Follow up Favourite Worst Nightmare
carried on this vein but mixed it with a sneering attitude towards the sudden fame and fortune they found themselves enveloped by. Although a good album, their Josh Homme produced third effort, 2009’s Humbug
, is still something of an anomaly in their relatively sparse canon. The fame didn’t appear to have gone strictly to their heads, but the keen eye Turner displayed for the trappings of modern life appeared to have taken a leave of absence. Instead we were told about sexing up Alexa Chung in “Dangerous Animals” and thought about whether Turner had attributed biologically impossible powers to himself in “Crying Lightning”. As it stands, Suck It And See
is the album they should have made all along with Josh Homme behind the mixing desk.
The album brings back the endearing immaturity preceding the notion that despite everything, Arctic Monkeys are still a gang of close friends still very much in touch with their roots. “Give me an eeny, meeny, miny, mo/Or an ip dip dog*** rock and roll” is Turner’s utterance during the blisteringly paced racket on the album’s standout track “Library Pictures”. The humourous observations are back too. On the LP’s eponymous track, we are introduced to somebody “rarer than a can of Dandelion & Burdock”, which is almost laugh out loud funny for people of a certain disposition. Life’s more simple pleasures are almost a common theme throughout the LP. “Brick By Brick” features the thrice hollered refrain “I wanna rock and roll”; the most simple of statements and one the Arctic Monkeys have used as the foundation for a good deal of their career thus far.
Despite this seeming adherence to a more tried and tested method, what really stands out here is the maturity and willingness to experiment musically. “Library Pictures” is a psychedelic wig-out, “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” features an almost Sabbath-like stomp coupled with lyrics that read like an ode to bad luck and opener “She’s Thunderstorms” is an angular and ominous ballad that starts proceedings nicely. Interestingly, there is an alternate version of “Piledriver Waltz” which made an appearance on Turner’s solo EP Submarine
. This is perhaps proof that there are no egos allowed on board the good ship Monkey and shows a positive attitude; if there is something that can be reworked or made better, then don’t hold back. Commendations should be paid towards the group as musicians too. There is a sweet strand of diversity, subtle or otherwise, permeating the record and points towards the coming together of comfort and talent.
However, at times Suck It And See
can feel like an album of two halves. After “Library Pictures” the mood and pace drops away from the brash swagger of the first half and towards a slower, more introspective mood. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is the direction album number five will head towards but the impression that the group play it by ear and do what comes natural is overwhelming. They have enough kudos from critics and fans alike and have utilised it to fulfil their own needs and wants, not what the market forces dictate.
This is only album number four but in some respects the group seem so far away from the days in which they burst onto the world stage unexpectedly. Were to they replicate such quality there’s no reason not to believe that they are due a much longer run at the top of the chain. If you were to listen to this LP and believe otherwise, Turner and Co. appear to have had the last word. The LP’s closer is “That’s Where You’re Wrong” and it’s never fun to be on the receiving end of such a statement.