Monday, 6 June 2011

Review: Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See

When I was first made aware of the Arctic Monkeys I was impressed. Their debut album was full of quick-witted lyrics, youthful energy and honest Northern attitude, while the second album offered more of the same but with a slightly harder edge. 2009's 'Humbug' was their third album and saw them swap the nagging riffs and adrenaline for dark, lurching stoner rock and a sound that sometimes brought to mind a British version of Queens Of The Stone Age. The casual fans of the band weren't too keen on 'Humbug', and with the release of the band's fourth album a lot of people were interested to see where they'd take their sound this time.




'Suck It And See' does have a few things in common with 'Humbug': its heavy production, its often slow pace and its sense of creeping menace. But the darkness has made way for a slightly more wistful sense of melody, although they've made sure none of the songs slip into ballad territory. The youthful zest of the first two albums has disappeared but the songs concentrate more on melody and intelligent songwriting. Opener 'She's Thunderstorms' sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album with a beautiful melody and an almost Smiths-esque guitar jangle that go brilliantly with the puzzling lyrics. Often the tunes can recall Spector-esque 60's pop, like the luminous sigh of 'Black Treacle', the bittersweet sparkle of 'Piledriver Waltz' and the slightly ridiculously-titled 'The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala', but at the heart there is the sound of uncertainty and sadness. 


Meanwhile 'Don't Sit Down Because I've Moved Your Chair' is the closest this album comes to the previous one, a truly menacing beast of a song that mixes more unusual and witty lyrics with an unsettling swagger and an atmosphere that feels like there's a ticking time bomb in the room. And 'Brick By Brick' is an unusual track, a dangerous garage riff building a verse that seems almost incomplete in its bluntness, coupled with a no-brainer almost Beatles-esque chorus that rattles by enjoyably. It's slightly weird and psychedelic too, but above all great fun. The thrilling 'Library Pictures' is certainly the most reminiscent of the band's earlier work, although more complex. Urgent and powerful bass and a frantic punk riff, the track gives the album the change in pace it needed. On 'All My Own Tricks' they've never sounded more like Queens Of The Stone Age, although the chorus dips into almost Coral-esque psychedelica, while 'Reckless Serenade' begins with a playful Nirvana-like bassline before developing with wonderfully intricate guitar lines and an effortlessly brilliant chorus that pops up just before the end like a pleasant surprise. 


More of the melancholic elements of the group's sound re-appear on the stunning 'Love Is A Lazerquest' while the title track again bears shades of classic 60's pop and quick-fire poetry ("you're rarer than a can of Dandelion & Burdock, and all those other girls are just post-mix lemonade"). The 60's melodies are there but so are various 80's indie sounds as well as a healthy dose of very subtle Britpop, and these sounds combine nicely on 'That's Where You're Wrong' which closes the album by making the very most out of two chords and a wonderful guitar hook.


The darkness from 'Humbug' is still there, but this time the melodies are softer, more tuneful and yet more complex. The youthful adrenaline of the first two albums has made way for strong, mature songwriting that in hindsight makes 'Humbug' look like a transitional album. Despite being clever and intelligent songs, none of the tracks sound like they were difficult to write, in fact this album is the most relaxed Arctic Monkeys effort yet and without a doubt the most cohesive of their four albums so far. 8/10



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