Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See

Heralded as one of the greatest bands of their generation, the Arctic Monkeys have increasingly felt the heavy weight of expectation and the burden of the zeitgeist.  So much that they have gone out of their way to avoid any fan delusions or media typecast, last month Alex Turner rejected the mantle of ‘Voice of a generation’ in an interview with The Observer, while mischievously self-referencing their dilemma with cryptic album titles!

Of course they’re not the first band to find themselves labeled as the avatars of British indie-rock.  25 years ago The Smiths were adored with equal rapture and reverence after releasing The Queen is Dead.  Ironically this latest Arctic’s album offers similar comparison with Morrissey’s work, though not that of The Smiths.  The retro dense production, feed-back driven guitar lines and over all nostalgia recalls Morrissey in his solo years.  Although most of the 60’s romantic pop sound borrows more from fellow Sheffield troubadour Richard Hawley and Turner’s own project, The Last of the Shadow Puppets.

Interestingly the Arctic’s have chosen to divert their career path to a safer, more secure destination than on their previous desert rock album, Humbug, with the exception of terrible lead single, Brick to Brick, with its lumpen rock.  This is never more apparent than with Turner’s songwriting.  Once a quick-tongued commentator on life’s youthful pursuits, he’s now tuned his songwriting craft to a romantic bent, less swagger, more waltz, ‘Makes me want to blow the candles out/Just to see if you glow in the dark’.  By focusing on abstract wordplay, rather than acerbic wit, he’s managed to become frustratingly conformist.  You suspect he’s capable of more challenging subjects, but chooses career security over hostility!  Nevertheless, at times, he still paints sharp and funny imagery, ‘Your rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock/ And those other girls are just post-mix lemonade’. Similar to his mentor, James Skelly from The Coral, he’s fine tuned his vocals to a rich and plaintive timbre.

It’s The Coral who the Arctic’s first nod their influence cap too, with the album beginning with the 60’s Mersey beat of ‘She’s Thunderstorms’, ‘Black Treacle’ and ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala‘, all distorted jangles and soaring choruses.  And it’s this mid-tempo guitar pop that the band settle into, switching to a sound and environment that feels much more natural than the heavy, murky riffs of Humbug.  At times the musicianship shows mastery and maturity.  Of course there are moments of stoner rock, red herring single, ‘Brick to Brick’, the ordinary ‘Library Pictures‘ & ‘All of my own stunts‘ and the riff – baiting ‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’.  

It’s the album finale where the Arctic’s display their undoubted talent.  Titular song ‘Suck it and see’ is a wonderfully crafted pop song, and like its northern touchstones, Morrissey and Hawley, it sways and invigorates. ‘That’s were you’re wrong‘ swings like an indie anthem of yore, The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen compressed into 4 minutes of unbridled joy.  This is a sign of what might have been, where the song writing flair soars to impressive heights, unfortunately the majority of the album is shackled by conformity and fails to get out of the Monkey’s default setting.

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2 Comments to “Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See”

  1. Well put sir. Not sure if this one will be my cup of tea

  2. Few good songs but the worst monkeys album in my eyes

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