After embracing the dark side with their third album Humbug, opinion on the Arctic Monkeys was clearly divided. Whilst some fans followed the Monkeys’ down their new dark and dangerous path, many bemoaned the band’s decision to grow their hair long and stop singing songs about fights outside of the taxi rank. However, Suck It and See shows a band letting the sunshine in by embracing conventional pop formula and recapturing the humour that characterised their earlier work.
Fans of the band will be familiar with the singles ‘Brick By Brick’ and ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’. The former is three minutes of sludgy guitar riffs and dire lyrics such as ‘I wanna rock and roll, brick by brick’ whilst the latter offers a menacing bass line as Alex Turner teases us to “run with scissors through a chip pan fire fight”. Many may have worried that these two tracks provided clear evidence that the band were attempting some sort of comedy album. Fortunately, they are least representative tracks on an album that is packed with wistful guitar pop.
Opener ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ is a psychedelic waltz led by chiming guitars and Turner in full on crooner mode as he swoons over a girl who is causing him an “acrobatic blood consertina”. ‘Black Treacle’ follows and is the band most musically direct song since 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare.
The chorus of ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ will echo around summer festival crowd and is a particular highlight that showcases Jamie Cook’s maturing guitar style in a band that continue to develop musically as well as lyrically. Elsewhere ‘Library Pictures’ with its pulsating tempo and guitar solos manages to fuse the more abstract lyrical approach of Humbug with the potent energy of the band’s 2006 debut.
Although more emphasis has been placed on the structure of songs, Alex Turner’s lyrics still remain as charming and poetic ever with tracks such as ‘Reckless Serenade’ and ‘Pildriver Waltz’ being strong contenders for the best song he has ever written. ‘Reckless Serenade’ sounds like a Smiths song recorded on a Los Angeles beach. “When she laughs the heavens hum a stun-gun lullaby’” Turner quips over a simple yet effective bassline. ‘Piledriver Waltz’ will be familiar to those who have heard the Submarine EP and with lyrics “I etched the face of a stop watch / On the back of a raindrop / And did a swap for the sand in an hourglass”, Turner’s clever wordplay seems to be in limitless supply.
The final trio of tracks are all of a high quality. ‘Love is a Laserquest’ is not too dissimilar to ‘Cornerstone’ from Humbug and makes for a joyous listen. Elsewhere, the title track and final song ‘That’a Where Your Wrong’ bring the album to close with more jangling guitars and the wry lyricism that is so intrinsic to the sound of the Arctic Monkeys.
In short, Suck It and See marks another intriguing chapter in the career of the Arctic Monkeys. The decision to embrace conventions of pop music and traditional song structure is one that suits the band perfectly. Suck it and See is the band’s most cohesive record to date and further illustrates the growing maturity present within each of their records. Innovation and complexity are often heralded as the key to making intellectual music. However, the Arctic Monkeys have shown that tradition and simplicity can also be the keys to success. Suck it and see for yourself.
From Joe Kinnaird