Review Summary: Something I never thought I'd say about a rock album: It sounds pretty.
I have a confession to make. I have never listened to the Arctic Monkeys before. I'll do you one better. This album was my first time listening to this band, period. Okay, so not entirely true. I'm not too proud to admit I first heard these lads from Sheffield during a particularly slow night of Guitar Hero. The song was a murderous number called "Brianstorm" and in music critic terms, it kicked my ass. Both literally and figuratively; my confidence on plastic guitar never recovered.
But that was it for me. Sure, I heard something about them being raved in Rolling Stone as the next-next-NEXT saviors of rock, but I was just getting over my heartbreak that was The Strokes. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; end up buying a lackluster, overhyped album. But eventually I couldn't just ignore them anymore. The "so un-funny, it's ironic" album art and "I can't prove it's dirty but.." album title, lulled me in. Luckily, I was dating a girl at the time who owns everything Alex Turner ever sneezed on, and managed to borrow her copy. I could satisfy my curiosity and not have my heart broken. By music. The all too real heartbreak from her would come along much later.
So what can you expect from the Arctic Monkey's latest album? I could just say "Not Brianstorm" and save about half of you the trouble. Now as for the rest, your first impression will be that they finally caved in, and wrote a pop album. No, No, not THAT kind of pop. Think more 60's love songs, and less club remix. There's a distant, dreamy, lovelorn swing to most of the songs on this album. Almost pleasant some would say. Downright boring, would say others. The instrumentation is tight as ever. Nick O'Malley and Matt Helder, (bassist and drummer respectively) hold their own and provide a strong rhythm section. And a special acknowledgment must be thrown out to Jamie Cook, whose guitar work is tragically underrated. While Alex drones on, Cook keeps your interest with some unique, fuzzy tones and the occasionally catchy riff thrown in.
The opener "She's Thunderstorms" is a nice introduction into exactly the kind of album you’re getting into. It's a pleasant song about a girl (one of many), that wouldn't be out of place as a love song in another decade. "Black Treacle" takes some getting use too, and is plagued by a weak chorus that goes nowhere. But Cook keeps things interesting with a beautiful chord progression. So far, good song, then slightly better song. Then comes "Brick by Brick". And it's awful. Suddenly, ever thing bad about the Arctic Monkeys becomes apparent in one moment. Dumb lyrics and half-assed instrumentation only become worse, when you commit the cardinal sin, and let the drummer sing.
Things are quickly fixed and Matt is sent back to his kit sulking, in time for the next song "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala" (yet another song about a girl). It's somewhat less enthusiastic sounding then the early songs, and ultimately nice, but forgettable. Then comes another moment, when the band switches gears and decides to punch you in the face. This time for the better. "Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair", is a crunchy, riff heavy, rocker, with a sea-sick bass line. I suddenly realized I was head banging, genuinely enjoying myself, for the first time listening to this album. My sudden re-discovery of joy carried onto the next track "Library Pictures". It was as if the band had woken up to the "rock" part of rock band.
Sadly, this moment doesn’t last, and it's back to dullsville with "All My Own Stunts" which doesn't even have the excuse of being a good song. Plus, a metaphorically (and perhaps literally) a wasted Josh Homme that's barely audible in the mix. The rest of the album is nowhere near bad as "Brick By Brick" but after being shown the first truly fun moments of the whole album, it all just seems boring. One dreamy pop tune drifts into another. All very nice sounding. Just not very fun. And that's my biggest problem with this album.
Suck it And See, is not a bad album, and if you’re a fan of Arctic Monkeys, you'll probably love it. But if you just heard of the band because they were in some magazine about being the "it" rock band of the decade, you might want to save your money. Hate to sound old, but rock n' roll just doesn't mean what it used to.