Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Arctic Monkeys 'Suck It And See' - The Review
Firstly, I am aware that Suck It And See has not had its official release yet. Now I am never one to endorse leaks. but considering the band themselves starting streaming it in its entirety on Monday, I feel it is now public domain and about time I talk about one of the most awaited albums of the year. So here goes, track by track...
All enigmatic title and cityscape guitars, She's Thunderstorms is the perfect opener to prove just how far Arctic Monkeys have come from the four spotty teenagers hanging around on Sheffield street corners. Turner has completed the metamorphosis from accented fast talker to proper crooner, practically cooing lovelorn lyrics such as 'She’s been loop the looping around my mind'. Alikely opener for thewir summer shows if they're feeling particularly obtrusive, which knowing Arctic Monkeys, will most likely be the case.
Second song in and we are greeted with another big chorus. The immediate impression that arises is one of The Beatles, almost Last Shadow Puppets if they'd had strayed into slighly more upbeat territory. Turner spoke before the albums release about Suck It And See utilizing more major chords, and that appears to have paid off in dividence here. Whilst the vocal line occasionally gets lost and seems a little meandering at times, it drives along nicely regardless.
Brick by Brick
Although it may have sounded a little too primal and formulaic upon its online release, Brick By Brick certainly benefits from being part of an album.The dual vocals of Matt Helders and Alex Turner work well, and the simple refrain comes across as catchy as opposed to lazy.Again, quite clearly, the lyrics arent the focus. Brick By Brick marks the first whiff of Queens Of The Stone Age frontman Josh Homme (set to appear again later on backing vocals) in the chugging riffs, and in this way its obvious who the influences are this time round. Definitely has a edge of driving radio rock Americana to it which will make it a summer favourite.
The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
The first track that threatens for highlight status, and most likely to please fans of their earliest material. A notable bass and guitar riff kick it straight off into memorable territory , introducing Alex's most definite vocal line of the album and the first that makes you want to listen to the vocals. The bands performance of this on Jools Holland a few weeks back proved that it sounds as good live as on record, and is the most likely contender to be the next single. All in all, its a nice jangly break from the four on the floor riffs of other songs. And best of all, the irony of the perky girl group harmonies isn't lost, which Alex snarling the line 'singing another fucking shalalala'
Don't Sit Down Cos I Moved Your Chair
Born out of a joke, it's obvious from this track alone that this is a band that are taking themselves less seriously. Destined to be huge at this summers festival thanks to a rather hefty drop, solid groove and of course heavy radio play, Don't Sit Down... would have slotted onto Humbug nicely. 'Fill in a circular hole with a peg that's square' and 'Do the macerana in the devils lair' marks Turners talent for dark observation, be it in a simpler and more abstract form.
Library Pictures is initially a bit of a shock. In fact, it is probably the hardest thing they've ever done. The frantic guitar line and equally frenetic lyrics ('curly straws and metaphors') reminds irresistibly of old Arctics B sides, and demonstrates how free of commercial restraint they now are. The '10.9.8...' countdown should be fun live: they certainly haven't lost their playfullness.
All My Own Stunts
And so we're back to crooner Turner mode, in a track that is rather reminiscent of Humbug's 'Dangerous Animals'. Not quite as instant as the others perhaps, and probably never likely to make the live setlist. The band seem to be aware of this, with the lyric 'Put on the dancing shoes and show me what to do/I know you've got the moves' perhaps a sly dig at themselves, or indeed the fans expense, for them never being able to recreate the magic/commercial success of their debut. Of course this is all speculation, but you never know. However, it's not all bad, as the track is saved by some trademark monkeys guitar work that strays into Matt Bellamy territory.
Another highlight and destined Monkeys classic due to it's subtlety. Much like Hellcat, the melody is at the forefront, central to a song that is again, much more like the older material. The lyrics present a similar theme to the rest of the album: seemingly sappy awe at a female character: Alexa obviously has Alex well trained. 'Called up to listen to the voice of reason and got the answering machine' hints at the barbed wit of yore, as do the Coral esque guitars.
Beefed out from the solo version demonstrated on the Alex only acoustic soundtrack to Submarine, the lush guitars of Piledriver Waltz complement Turner's vocal tone well but don't particularly add much more to the already very likeable original. Again, we have possible nods to the success turner feels uncomfortable with the memorable line'if you're going to try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes'. A word of warning to any young pretenders out there...
Love is a Laserquest
Love Is A Laserquest earns bonus points in my book for a great title. What can I say, I'm a sucker for an imaginative metaphor. Building drums over wistful, reminiscent lyrics bring up the vision of a leaner, older cousin of Mardy Bum, told 20 years down the line when Turner has married the girl and the cuddles in the kitchen are but a distant memory. Sadly beautiful in the way only arctic monkeys can manage.
Suck It and See
Ah, the title track. It certainly has an element on cinematic closer about it. Lyrics such as 'rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock' are beautifully British and charming, fitting perfectly with this record. Another example of how the vocal driven tracks are the strongest, with Helders on fine form in the mic department as well as drums. 'pour my aching heart into a pop song/I couldn't get the hang of poetry' mark yet another hint at awkwardness. Surely I'm not just imagining this? Adding further to the pleasure levels, it finishes on a very satisfying chord, which may be a geeky thing to say, but it's true.
That's Where You're Wrong
Kicking off with a rather Horrors esque guitar, this track is being cited by many fans as the highlight, and they're not far wrong. 'Jealousy in technicolour, love by numbers'... We're back in classic Turner wordplay territory, and it feels good. Thats Where You're Wrong's classic hands in the air chorus has an air of kings of leon triumphance about it, making for an effective ender to a very proficient fourth effort.
So I sucked it, and I saw. But what did I see? Fans of Humbug will be very happy, as Suck It And See is positively bursting with riffs and abstract imagery, perhaps too much so. It's obvious this album is more about music than lyrics, perhaps consciously. But for me, the true brilliance of Arctic Monkeys shows through when their elements are in balance. It appears in the press that
Helders is fast becoming a more enigmatic and willing frontman than Turner - hell, he even takes lead vocals! But on tracks like Hellcat..., That's Where You're Wrong and Reckless Serenade, it's obvious they haven't lost his spark. Whilst Alex Turner may claim he doesn't want to be the voice of a generation, a bit more self belief wouldn't go amiss when you can craft a collection of songs that make for a very pleasing 50 minute listen.