Taking a small turn from the heavy desert mysticism of Humbug, Arctic Monkeys’ fourth release is a move toward the comprehensible. It’s been an incredibly dynamic journey for the Sheffieldians, who still hold the title of the fastest selling album in the UK by a band. Through three number-one albums, they’ve captured the hearts of music critics and fans alike, guaranteeing watchful eyes on their every step. From their short-hair days of dance riffs proclaiming the death of romance to now, an album cheekily titled Suck It and See, the lightning foursome have returned with something mean. Lead singer and songwriter Alex Turner’s superstardom hit all-time highs with his project The Last Shadow Puppets and more recently for his scoring of the film Submarine.
To their credit, the boys have a totally distinct sound—they could play Bach’s cantatas and still sound like Arctic Monkeys—and Turner knows it.
Recorded in Sound Studios, Los Angeles—Suck it and See continues an American binge for the Brits—a joint that’s hosted rock legends the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Strokes. Band standby James Ford’s loving production is written all over the album, which carries that West coast sadness like a smoggy but pretty sunset has. Through the process, they’ve continued to garner that classic image of rough-hewn, ashtray rock and rollers. “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” is a halfway point between Humbug and Suck It; a compromise between former Producer Josh Homme’s numinous peyote thrash with the songmanship we know Turner to be capable of. “I took the batteries out of my mysticism and put ‘em in my thinking cap,” he sings on “The Hellcat Spangled Shalala.”
But it’s not always the sharp-tongued Turner fans came to love over Fluorsecent Adolescent and Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. By all accounts it seems to be the focus, “I poured my aching heart into a pop song/I couldn’t get the hang of poetry/That’s not a skirt girl, that’s a sawed off shotgun,” (“Suck It and See”) but fairly often, it’s those sharp fourth and chromatic descents in Jamie Cook’s guitar work that seem more familiar. It is a guitar band and with the rare exceptions of organs, they stick to their guns. The warm space in production, the occasional atonal hit and hearing each note on the bass picked keep it authentic sounding, like a live-take. There are some major references, “Reckless Serenade” sounds more like a reckless “Sweet Jane.” “That’s Where You’re Wrong” has the glow of vintage New Order.
The album is structured in a way that begins sensibly with sweet (albeit toe-tapping) tunes like “She’s Thunderstorms,” and the gorgeous “Black Treacle,” songs that rely on Turner’s heart-on-sleeve honesty and charm before flying into slicing guitars-lines and roaring drums by single “Brick by Brick” before winding down into woeful sing-song again. There’s no doubt that the Arctics carry shades of sixties Invasion rock—but it can never be the only thing. They are undeniably “Rock” whilst remaining unafraid to push their periphery, secure in a sound that’s all their own. Suck It And See gets better with every listen but its simplicity in scope makes it easy to appreciate from the first.
Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See – Tracklist:
- “She’s Thunderstorms”
- “Black Treacle”
- “Brick by Brick”
- “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”
- “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”
- “Library Pictures”
- “All My Own Stunts”
- “Reckless Serenade”
- “Piledriver Waltz”
- “Love Is a Laserquest”
- “Suck It and See”
- “That’s Where You’re Wrong”