Arctic Monkeys : Suck It And See
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Arctic Monkeys : Suck It And See

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So astute, dynamic and pertinent was Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 debut album – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – that it easily cemented the Sheffield quartet as one of the defining rock bands of the 21st century. It’s testament to their enduring strength – and generation-defining talent – that they’ve now delivered three relatively different albums to follow such a remarkable debut.

 

Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), Humbug (2009) and now Suck It And See have all unveiled a few twists that while not exactly ground-breaking – and none of which, when presented as a cohesive album, proved more immediate or powerful than their debut – were affirmations of a rock outfit who were not only reliably exciting, but maturing and progressing artistically.

 

Favourite Worst Nightmare and Humbug were considerable diversions from the crunching guitar assaults, frenzied dance-floor beats and breathless vocal delivery of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – an album that is, unquestionably, a modern classic. Favourite Worst Nightmare saw the band expanding the grooves and exploring denser tones and atmospheres, while Humbug slid into darker, heavier and experimental terrain with assistance from Josh Homme, who served as co-producer alongside James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco, Klaxons). It’s obvious that Ford – who has worked on each album except the debut – is aligned with the Arctic Monkeys’ progressive journey.

 

Suck It And See , though, is the most distinctive of the Arctic Monkeys’ albums, with its dramatic yet meticulously lush arrangements and darkly provocative yet airy conjuring of explorative pop. Turner explores his vocal range with an astute playfulness and finds its sweeter lilt in the swooning retro-pop nuances of Black Treacle before unleashing into a camp swagger with the stomping grandiosity of Brick By Brick, which remains bizarre after several listens.

 

The swirling, psychedelic pop of The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala epitomises the album’s atmospheric, spacious and cinematic cadence while asserting that Turner’s lyrics have grown increasingly evocative: “I took my batteries out my mysticism and put ’em in my thinking cap / She’s got a telescopic hallelujah hanging up on the wall / For when it gets too complicated in the eye of the storm”. But amid the stylistic experimentation, Arctic Monkeys execute two brutal and exhilarating rock staples in Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair and Library Pictures.

 

In Reckless Serenade, Turner’s register is lower, smoother and equal parts seductive and sophisticated; it could simply be an ode to a worshipped lady or something deeper (“I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is I need / Call up to listen to the voice of reason / And got the answering machine”). Of course, the charismatic frontman delivers some classic lines laden with his trademark observational wit: “You look like you’ve been for breakfast at the heartbreak hotel / And sat in the back booth by the pamphlets and the literature on how to lose” (Piledriver Waltz); however, in Love Is A Laserquest, light-hearted humour (“I’m sure that you’re still breaking hearts with the efficiency that only youth can harness”) slides quickly into reflective melancholy: “Do you look into the mirror to remind yourself you’re there / Or have somebody’s goodnight kisses got that covered”.

 

After stretching himself artistically through The Last Shadow Puppets (his side-project with Miles Kane) and his solo soundtrack for Submarine – as well as demonstrating amplified fascination with Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie – Turner has become an increasingly versatile songwriter. It just proves that anyone who doubted Arctic Monkeys’ ability to impose significance off the dance floor could not have been more mistaken.

 

Suck It And See will divide listeners as it finds the band revelling in a freedom that is unabashed and daring; in terms of artistic transparency, though, it’s an utter triumph and the Arctic Monkeys’ boldest and most intriguing statement since their debut.

 

Best Track: Love Is A Laserquest ; Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair; Piledriver Waltz.

 

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In A Word: Versatile