Posts tagged ‘Arctic Monkeys’

June 6, 2011

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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April 2, 2010

Arctic Monkeys play virgin gig at the Albert Hall

In the grand Victorian ballroom of the Albert Hall the Monkeys presented their new-found maturity and dark intensity.  The sound of the now five piece rumbled with a muscular depth and menacing growl that has only been recently conceived since their artistic re-birth with Queen of the desert rock, Josh Homme.   For all the musical virtuosity and sonic insouciance though, at times the elegant and cavernous monument seemed to drown their own physical beings.  You can take the music out of the boy……………..Still only 25, but at times Alex Turner’s sheer physical slightness and psychological shyness rendered both their musical development and cultural volte-face a little premature.  Don’t get me wrong?  This was a masterclass in stage dynamics, creating an atmosphere of both rhythmic density and visceral, youthful excitement.   This band have come along way in a very short time………The opening of Dance Little Liar was all twisting groove and growling delivery, starkly opposite to the song that followed, brianstorm, which featured Turner’s trademark yorkshire yarns.

The development of the band seems highly evolved and could serve them well in the ensuing years, especially in the stables of longevity and integrity – it takes a while to train a thoroughbred.  The one area that seems a little unsure of its career trajectory is Alex Turner and his stage manner.   Forever shy, he use to hide behind his youthful strut and his ironic knowingness.   Now he seems caught between irony and sincerity – gone beyond his years of teenage brashness yet still to approach anything like the stage presence of an experienced front man.  He still doesn’t feel comfortable leading the band and through his uncertainty his presence feels a little lost, especially in the enormous surrounds of the hall.   There are generally two kinds of great front men – one who exudes charisma and can charm a crowd at will – the other is the type who rarely speak a word, who just permeates a menacing presence of danger and intrigue.  Turner is neither one or the other – too shy to charm , too nice to scare!  Josh Homme needs to take him back to desert camp?